Meet the Exonerees

William O'Dell Harris

State: West Virginia
Date of Birth: 1970
Incident Date:
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 1984
Age When Exonerated: 26
Exonerated Date: 10/10/1995
Time Served: 7
Conviction: Rape
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

William O’Dell Harris was seventeen when he was arrested for rape after the victim picked him out of a lineup. He was convicted primarily based on the victim’s misidentification of him and the testimony of Fred Zain, a serologist with the West Virginia State Police. Zain testified that the results of his blood tests implicated only 5.9% of the population, including William, when in fact tests at the time could not exclude any percentage of the population. It was later revealed that Zain had repeatedly misrepresented DNA evidence at trial, leading to a large-scale investigation of his testimonies. Harris’s attorneys filed a petition for the DNA evidence to be re-tested, and subsequent DNA tests excluded Harris as the rapist. He was exonerated in 1995 and later received $1 million in compensation.