Respect Equality

Black man convicted for rape 36 years ago as teenager exonerated

Sullivan Walter, a Louisiana man serving a 39-year sentence, was released on Thursday.
RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT ID TO JOSEPH WALTER – Sullivan Walter, 53, left, holds a shirt near Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, La., with, left to right, his brothers Joseph Walter, and Byron Walter, Sr., and Innocence Project New Orleans legal director Richard Davis, just after his release on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. (Travis Spradling/The Advocate via AP)

Story at a glance

  • Louisiana man Sullivan Walter was released from prison after a judge vacated his conviction for a rape that took place in 1986.  

  • Walter was arrested for the rape at age 17 and is now currently 53.  

  • Attorneys for the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office and from the Innocence Project New Orleans worked to correct the wrongful conviction.  

A Louisiana man has been cleared of rape charges he was wrongfully convicted for as a teenager over 30 years ago.  

On Thursday, Sullivan Walter, who is now 53, was released from prison after a state district judge dismissed his conviction for a rape that occurred in 1986, according to the Associated Press. 

Walter was arrested when he was 17 years old in connection with a rape in New Orleans, where an attacker entered the home of a woman and raped her while holding a knife to her throat and threatening to hurt her then 8-year-old son, according to the outlet.  

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Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ office worked with defense attorneys from the Innocence Project New Orleans, a nonprofit focused on freeing the wrongfully convicted or those serving unjust sentences, to have the conviction vacated.  

Attorneys argued that the only eyewitness to the attack, the victim, could have misidentified Walter. 

“There were some red flags that the eyewitness testimony could well have been unreliable,” Emily Maw, an attorney at the DA’s office told the AP.  

Filings from the DA’s office and the Innocence Project list several errors in Walter’s case, like years’ worth of mistakes made by Walter’s previous attorneys and no match between Walter’s blood and semen taken from the victim, the outlet added.  

Judge Darryl Derbigny, who vacated the case, called the failure to present the blood and semen evidence that could have proved Walter’s innocence, as “unconscionable” to say the least.