Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Leo Waters

First NameLeo
Last NameWaters
Year of Conviction1982
Year of Exoneration2003
Testing inculpated culpritCold Hit
State of ConvictionNorth Carolina
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape
Death SentenceNo
Life / LWOP sentenceLife
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeWhite
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Alibi
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s wife had their only car at the time the crime occurred and defendant was home by himself.

Did the defendant testify at trial?Yes
Quotes from Exoneree Testimony

“Q: Have you ever been to [address of crime scene]? A: No, sir, I have not. Q: Have you ever seen [the victim] before these charges were brought against you? A: No, sir, I’ve never seen her before.”

Types of evidence at trial
  • Eyewitness
  • Forensic Evidence
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Serology
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Valid
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

Serological analysis detected substances foreign both to the victim and her husband.

Identity of eyewitness
  • Intraracial Identificaiton
  • Victim
Lineup Procedures
  • Composite drawing
  • Photo array
  • Showup
Suggestive Procedures

Yes ● Hypnotized victim ● Following tentative photo array identification at which she did not make positive identification, victim was asked to identify him in courthouse show-up

Quotes from testimony #1

Hypnotist testified, “The state of hypnosis is a state of relaxation. We carry many thoughts within our mind at one time. By eliminating many thoughts through relaxing the mind, quieting the mind, we can focus usually on what we’re interested in remembering…”

Unreliable Identification?

Yes ● Initially uncertain ● Discrepancy in description – hair color, eye color, weight, age

Quotes from testimony #2

During photo, victim said that “maybe” the defendant was the attacker, and “it’s very close.” When asked to come to courthouse for show-up, she said she “was fairly sure.” By trial she was “absolutely sure it was him.” Victim’s description added key details only after she had been hypnotized. Defendant testified his beard was red and hair blonde, he never wore glasses and was about 290 pounds. Victim described an attacker with a salt and pepper beard and “dark brown hair,” with “wire frame, silver glasses,” green eyes, and weighing “about 200 pounds.” She said that at trial “he’s grown a beard and it’s a different color,” where the one she saw was “about a week’s worth of beard and salt and pepper.” Defendant did not have green eyes either.

Highest level reachedState Post­ Conviction
Claims Raised During All Appeals and Postconviction
  • Brady
  • Jury Instructions
  • State Law Evidence Claim
  • Suggestive Eyewitness Identification
Harmless Error Rulings
  • HE
  • NP
Citations to judicial opinions

State v. Waters, 302, S.E.2d 188 (N.C. 1983)
State v. Waters, 344 S.E.2d 16 (N.C. 1986)

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