New Orleans man who served 36 years for rape he didn’t commit released from prison

Sullivan Walter, 53, says he is ready “to live an honest, free life”

Convicted at age 17 of a rape he didn’t commit, Sullivan Walter, 53, holds a shirt reading “Justice,” near the road that leads to the gate of Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, shortly after Walter was released from the prison. His was the longest known wrongful incarceration of a juvenile in Louisiana history, and the fifth longest in U.S. history, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. With Walter are, left to right, his brothers Joseph Corner and Byron Walter Sr. and Richard Davis, Innocence Project New Orleans legal director. STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

Sullivan Walter brushed away tears Thursday as a New Orleans judge ordered his immediate release from prison, 36 years after he was incarcerated for a rape he didn’t commit.

Withheld evidence and fudged testimony kept Walter, now 53, wrongfully locked away, the Innocence Project New Orleans and the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office agreed, as they moved jointly to vacate his sentence and set him free from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center at St. Gabriel.

According to their motion, blood and seminal fluid could have exonerated Walter at his trial and throughout his appeals’ process. But neither the prosecutors nor the defense attorneys at his trial transparently presented that evidence.

“To say this was unconscionable,” Judge Darryl Derbigny said Thursday, “is an understatement.”

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