West Virginia Man, Exonerated by DNA, Freed From Prison After 15 Years


Joseph Buffey ends long legal battle with a plea agreement that allows him to maintain his innocence and gain his immediate freedom.

A West Virginia man who was the subject of a precedent-setting West Virginia Supreme Court decision after he served 15 years in prison for a sexual assault he did not commit, was finally freed from prison today.

Buffey has maintained his innocence in the robbery and sexual assault of an 83-year-old woman in Clarksburg, WV. More than a decade into his 70-year sentence, the state Supreme Court found his constitutional rights had been violated because prosecutors did not disclose DNA tests excluding Buffey as the attacker. Those tests were used to find the actual attacker, who was convicted of rape and burglary in 2015. The court allowed Buffey to withdraw the original plea deal his public offender talked him into signing.

Still, prosecutors insisted on pursuing Buffey on some of the original charges dropped in that plea deal. Buffey was represented by Ben Bailey of Bailey Glasser’s Charleston, West Virginia, office; Barry Scheck and Nina Morrison of the Innocence Project in New York; and Allan Karlin of Morgantown, West Virginia.

Buffey was facing at least two more criminal trials. On Tuesday, Buffey agreed to a new plea agreement that allowed for his immediate release. Known as a Kennedy plea in West Virginia, the agreement allows Buffey to maintain his innocence and move on with his life while resolving all of the charges against him by crediting him with the time he served.

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