Fourteen years after a Forsyth County jury convicted him of raping two teenage sisters, Joseph Abbitt of Winston-Salem left jail Wednesday a free man, exonerated by DNA.

Abbitt, who had a checkered past and was identified by both victims as the man who attacked them in the early morning hours of 1991 as they dressed for school, never wavered in proclaiming his innocence.

He was the seventh man in North Carolina exonerated by DNA evidence years after being sentenced, the Charlotte Observer reported. In one of the state’s most high-profile cases, Darryl Hunt was freed in 2003 after serving 18 years for the rape and murder of a Winston-Salem (Forsyth) woman.

Nationally, 241 men have been exonerated by DNA long after being convicted and sent to prison, the paper reported. Three quarters of them had been wrongly identified by witnesses.

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