June 20, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Man to get new trial after 7 years in prison for rape; lawyers say DNA excludes him

After serving almost seven years in prison for rape, a local man will get a new trial, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed Friday.

Attorneys with the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence Project said that DNA testing proves their client Donya Davis’s innocence. In 2007 Davis was convicted and sentenced to serve 67 years for the 2006 rape of a Detroit woman.

“New DNA testing of biological evidence collected in the 2006 rape case points to another man and excludes Donya Davis,” the law school said in a statement. “Prior to Davis’ 2007 trial, the Detroit Forensic Services tested skin cells collected from the victim’s thighs. Testing of those skin cells also excluded Davis.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit did DNA testing in the case and on Friday the office agreed to a new trial, said Maria Miller, assistant county prosecutor.

“It is important to recognize that at this juncture the agreement for a new trial does not mean that Mr. Davis has been exonerated of the charges,” Miller said.

Third Circuit Judge Ulysses Boykin granted the request, Miller said.

Davis was expected to be released from the Wayne County Jail Friday.

In 2013, the Innocence Project sought DNA testing under Michigan’s post-conviction law. Virginia-based Bode Technology Group identified sperm cells on thigh samples that the Detroit Crime Lab never evaluated or tested, attorneys said. Bode’s results excluded Davis as the source of the male DNA.

“After six years of hard work by a number of Cooley students, the first step towards obtaining justice for Donya Davis has been achieved,” Marla Mitchell-Cichon, co-director of Cooley’s Innocence Project said in a statement Friday. “Michigan’s post-conviction DNA testing law, MCL 700.16, is set to expire January 1, 2016. Previous versions of the law would have precluded Davis from seeking the testing that now shows he didn’t commit the crime. Now he is hoping for justice for himself and the victim.”

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