DNA Evidence Clears Two Men Who Served 30 Years Each For Rape

Judge tosses guilty pleas, but third man already died in Mississippi prison.

ByABC News
September 16, 2010, 12:24 PM

Sept. 16, 2010 — -- A judge in Hattiesburg, Mississippi today threw out the guilty pleas of two men who had spent three decades in prison for rape and murder after DNA tests showed they were innocent. The decision comes too late, however, for a third man who died in prison eight years ago.

Bobby Dixon, Phillip Bivens and Larry Ruffin were sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of Eva Gail Patterson of Hattiesburg in 1979. Larry Ruffin died behind bars in 2002.

The Innocence Project filed a petition in July on behalf of Dixon and Bivens and a separate petition on behalf of Ruffin just yesterday. The advocacy group had lobbied for new DNA tests of the evidence from the 1979 rape, and tests showed that the DNA matched that of another man Andrew Harris, who is currently serving a life sentence in a Mississippi prison for a 1981 rape.

Bobby Dixon was released from prison last month in order to undergo treatment for terminal cancer, but Bivens, now 59, remained behind bars. He attended the hearing in his prison jumpsuit before being set free by the judge's ruling.

"It was a good result in a tragic situation," said Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans and lawyer for Dixon, Bivens and the Ruffin family. "This is a particularly sad case. Another man committed the crime and then let these men sit in prison for 30 years. We hope it will have an impact on how we look at confessions and guilty pleas."

\"It was a good result in a tragic situation,\" said Emily Maw, director of the Innocence Project New Orleans and lawyer for Dixon, Bivens and the Ruffin family. \"This is a particularly sad case. Another man committed the crime and then let these men sit in prison for 30 years. We hope it will have an impact on how we look at confessions and guilty pleas.\"","publishedDate":"2010-09-16T16:24:31Z","contributors":[{"name":"ABC News","url":"","role":"","logo":"","logoAlt":""}],"modifiedDate":"2010-09-16T19:29:50Z","section":"Blotter","wordCount":255,"relatedTags":{"heading":"Related Topics","tags":[]},"lead":{"ratio":"16x9","disableForMobile":false,"type":"xl","mediaType":"image","alignCaptionToBody":true},"ads":{"Sticky":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"RightRail":{"kvps":{"test":true}},"InlineBox":{},"InlineOutstream":{"disabled":false},"Taboola":{"position":"bottom","pageType":"article","config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","container":"taboola-below-article-thumbnails","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"}}},"featuredVideo":null,"dateline":"Sept. 16, 2010 —","seo":{},"LivePromotion":{}},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]}},"upw":{"balanceOfPower":{"electoral":{"header":"Biden Projected to be President-Elect","candidates":{"democrats":{"id":1036,"displayName":"Joe Biden","shortDisplayName":"J. Biden","firstName":"Joe","lastName":"Biden","party":"democrats","major":true,"incumbent":false,"winner":true,"votes":306},"republicans":{"id":8639,"displayName":"Donald Trump","shortDisplayName":"D. Trump","firstName":"Donald","lastName":"Trump","party":"republicans","major":true,"incumbent":true,"winner":false,"votes":232},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":0}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"electoral","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{},"total":306,"difference":{},"popular":{"displayValue":"81,283,098","value":81283098}},"republicans":{"available":{},"total":232,"difference":{},"popular":{"displayValue":"74,222,958","value":74222958}},"other":{"available":{},"total":0,"popular":{}},"total":538},"needed":{"displayText":"270 to win","displayValue":"270","value":270},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-18T21:15:13.850Z","displayValue":"December 18, 4:15:13PM ET"},"reporting":"99% of Expected Vote Reporting"},"senate":{"header":"Senate Seat Results","candidates":{"democrats":{"displayName":"Democrats","icon":"party-democrats","votes":46,"winner":false},"republicans":{"displayName":"Republicans","icon":"party-republicans","votes":50,"winner":false},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":2}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"senate","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{"displayText":"12 Democrats up for election","shortDisplayText":"12 Dems. up for election","displayValue":"12","value":12},"total":46,"difference":{"displayText":"Gained 1 seat","displayValue":"1","value":1},"popular":{}},"republicans":{"available":{"displayText":"23 Republicans up for election","shortDisplayText":"23 Reps. up for election","displayValue":"23","value":23},"total":50,"difference":{"displayText":"Lost 1 seat","displayValue":"-1","value":-1},"popular":{}},"other":{"available":{"displayText":"0 Others up for election","shortDisplayText":"0 Others up for election","displayValue":"0","value":0},"total":2,"popular":{}},"total":100},"needed":{"displayText":"51 for control","displayValue":"51","value":51},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-17T18:22:05.390Z","displayValue":"December 17, 1:22:05PM ET"}},"house":{"header":"House Results: Dems Retain Control","candidates":{"democrats":{"displayName":"Democrats","icon":"party-democrats","votes":222,"winner":true},"republicans":{"displayName":"Republicans","icon":"party-republicans","votes":210,"winner":false},"other":{"displayName":"Other","votes":0}},"parties":{"democrats":"democrats","republicans":"republicans"},"type":"house","votes":{"democrats":{"available":{"displayText":"233 Democrats up for election","shortDisplayText":"233 Dems. up for election","displayValue":"233","value":233},"total":222,"difference":{"displayText":"Lost 10 seats","displayValue":"-10","value":-10},"popular":{}},"republicans":{"available":{"displayText":"201 Republicans up for election","shortDisplayText":"201 Reps. up for election","displayValue":"201","value":201},"total":210,"difference":{"displayText":"Gained 10 seats","displayValue":"10","value":10},"popular":{}},"other":{"available":{"displayText":"1 Others up for election","shortDisplayText":"1 Others up for election","displayValue":"1","value":1},"total":0,"popular":{}},"total":435},"needed":{"displayText":"218 for control","displayValue":"218","value":218},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-17T18:22:02.900Z","displayValue":"December 17, 1:22:02PM ET"}},"lastUpdated":{"value":"2020-12-18T21:15:13.850Z","displayValue":"December 18, 4:15:13PM ET"},"autoUpdate":{"enabled":false,"topics":["general-elections-2020-balance-of-power"]},"electionsConfig":{}},"types":["electoral","senate","house"]}},"analytics":{"accountID":"wdgnewabcnews,wdgasec,wdgnewabcnweb,wdgnewabcnewsrollup","ns":"abcnews","pageName":"abcn:blotter:story","pageType":"story","pageUrl":"abcnews.go.com/Blotter/dna-evidence-clears-men-served-30-years-rape/story?id=11654532&userab=shop_ui_series-231*variant_a_cta-bottom-866","globalSpecVersion":"v1.08","siteDifferentiator":"abcn:site","tagID":"apage_news01","userABCookie":"shop_ui_series-231*variant_a_cta-bottom-866","alertTag":"none","authors":"ABC News","authorsBureau":"none","authorsUnit":"none","dateline":"Sept. 16, 2010 —","id":"11654532","modDate":"2010-09-16","mediaOnPage":"none","modTime":"15:29","provider":"ABC News","pubDate":"2010-09-16","pubTime":"12:24","section":"Blotter","subBrand":"none","title":"DNA Evidence Clears Two Men Who Served 30 Years Each For Rape","videoId":"none","videoName":"none","wordCount":255},"taboola":{"config":{"network":"abcnews-abcnews","mode":"thumbnails-a","type":"other","targetType":"mix","placement":null,"pageTypeOverrides":{"story":{"mode":"thumbnails-a","type":"article","targetType":"mix","placement":"Below Article Thumbnails"},"home":{"mode":"thumbnails-b","container":"taboola-homepage-thumbnails","type":"home","targetType":"mix","placement":"Homepage Thumbnails"},"section":{"mode":"thumbnails-b","type":"category","targetType":"mix","placement":"Section Front Thumbnails"},"liveBlog":{"mode":"thumbnails-d","type":"other","targetType":"mix","placement":"Blog"}}}}},"request":{"headers":{},"httpVersion":"1.1","method":"GET","url":"/Blotter/dna-evidence-clears-men-served-30-years-rape/story?id=11654532&userab=shop_ui_series-231*variant_a_cta-bottom-866","vary":{"host":"abcnews.go.com","cached":true,"path":"/Blotter/dna-evidence-clears-men-served-30-years-rape/story","forwarded-proto":"https","device":"desktop","country":"us","userab":"shop_ui_series-231*variant_a_cta-bottom-866","region":"gdpr"}},"viewport":{"width":1260,"height":0},"user":{}};