Netflix's 'The Innocence Files' features 1982 Newport News murder, rape case

News 3 covered the exoneration of the innocent man
Posted at 10:23 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 22:23:19-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - "The Innocence Files," a docuseries featured on Netflix, sheds light on a local 1982 murder and rape case that sent an innocent man to prison for 33 years.

Keith Allen Harward was convicted in the September 19, 1982, murder of Jesse Perron and rape of Perron’s wife. News 3 covered the legal process to free the wrongfully-convicted Sailor of rape and murder in Newport News.

In the docuseries, eyewitnesses come forward in interviews to speak regarding the case.

Netflix highlights how prosecutors used testimony from forensic dentists who claimed that Harward's teeth matched photos of the victim's bite marks.

During the series, police officers, witnesses, prosecutors and more recall the trial and case.

Harward was convicted of capital murder, rape, forcible sodomy and robbery. He was initially sentenced to 65 years. He maintained his innocence throughout his entire sentence.

Dr. Michael West, the bite mark analyst in the case, was featured in the docuseries to explain his side of the story. The series shows how many cases for which West conducted analyses were on trial to be overturned.

The Innocence Project assisted in the exoneration of Harward's case through DNA testing.

A report from the Innocence Project also said that “prosecutors neglected to turn over important evidence that could have exculpated Harward more than 33 years ago.”

On April 7, 2016, the Supreme Court of Virginia granted Harward’s his innocence and formally exonerated him of all the crimes for which he had been convicted.

He was released at the age of 60.

News 3 spoke with the first suspect in the 1982 case, Arthur Koch, who was also a Sailor.

Koch recounted to News 3 the day he was arrested for the case.

“They were out to get a conviction,” said Koch, who was only 18 years old when he was arrested for the same rape and murder for which Harward was eventually convicted.

Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement in 2016 saying another Sailor, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in 2006, was the person believed to be responsible for the crime.

In 2017, Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe cleared Harward to receive nearly $1.6 million from the Commonwealth for the 33 years he spent in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.