Will DNA from 1990 rape case overturn conviction?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Could new DNA evidence overturn a more than 25-year-old rape case? That decision will be up to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Back in 1991 a jury convicted Darnell Phillips of raping a 10-year-old girl.

For more than 25 years Darnell Phllips has sat in a Virginia correctional center in one town or another. He will serve 100 years for attacking and raping a 10-year-old girl in a park near the Timberlake section of Virginia Beach.

However, several years ago the Innocence Project took up his case using DNA evidence.

“In our opinion the truth is out. I mean, we know Darnell Phillips didn’t do this,” Innocence Project Attorney, Jennifer Givens said. “What we don’t know is who did.”

In court on Wednesday, Givens took the latest DNA evidence to a judge. This evidence consisted of samples of skin that investigators found on the victim’s clothes.

“In this case, we know that the victim’s attacker had touched her shorts and underwear. He had pulled them off of her,” she said.

The return from a California lab showed no match with Phillips.

His attorneys also brought an affidavit from the victim. They claimed she is no longer sure if Phillips was her attacker.

Attorneys presented this evidence to a Virginia Beach Court to get the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Virginia Beach Police to turn over Phillips’ case files. The court procedure is called a motion for discovery.

“We can’t get that information without court discovery unless the Commonwealth is now willing to open up their files,” Givens said.

A Commonwealth’s Attorney argued the tests sent to the lab didn’t include DNA swabs found on the victim’s crotch. Those test results did not point to Phillips, but didn’t exclude him. They also claimed the affidavit from the victim was coerced.

A judge ruled against the motion, but did not stop the Phillips’ case from going forward. The judge said she didn’t think it was her place to grant the motion.

“We’re going to file a writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Supreme Court,” Givens said.

Today was a speed bump according to Givens, not a dead end in the road to release Darnell Phillips.