Exoneree Alan Northrop

At a Glance

  • Innocent Years Served: 17 ½ Years
  • Sentence: 23 ½ Years
  • Wrongful Conviction: First-Degree Rape, First-Degree Kidnapping, First-Degree Burglary
  • Year: 1993
  • Jurisdiction: Clark County
  • Released: April 21, 2010
  • Exonerated: July 14, 2010
  • Cost of Wrongful Incarceration*: $674,821
  • Lost Wages**: $787,386

About Alan

In 1993, Alan was living in his hometown of Woodland, Washington, working as a logger and getting his small engine repair business off the ground. His daughter Kayla was 5 years old, and his sons, Alan Jr. and Justin, were just 2 years old. He loved music, was an avid drummer, and spent his free time socializing with friends at the local watering hole.

The Investigation

That same year, a housekeeper was sexually assaulted while cleaning a home in the town of La Center. During the attack, the victim had been blindfolded and afterward could recall only that the perpetrators were men — one with dark hair and the other taller with blond hair. In order to generate leads, the victim worked with law enforcement to create pieces of a composite sketch of the dark-haired perpetrator.

Alan and his friend Larry Davis became suspects in the case when police received a tip that Alan resembled the composite sketch, noting that Larry was a friend of Alan who was taller and had blond hair. Law enforcement chose to ignore other leads and focused their suspicion exclusively on Alan and Larry.

Following a series of highly suggestive eyewitness identification procedures, the victim misidentified Alan and Larry. They were the only suspects to repeat in each of the photo and live lineups, making their faces more familiar to the victim and increasing the chances of her choosing them based on repeated exposure. Additionally, a friend of the victim who worked at the police station provided her with details about Alan and Larry right before the lineups occurred. No physical evidence connected either Alan or Larry to the crime.

Despite their innocence, Alan was wrongfully convicted of first-degree burglary, first degree kidnapping, and as the principal actor in first-degree rape, and sentenced to 23 ½ years. Larry was tried and convicted separately of burglary, kidnapping, and accomplice to the rape and sentenced to 20 ½ years.

Post-Conviction and Exoneration

Alan and Larry separately contacted the Washington Innocence Project by mail in 2000. At the time, the state’s DNA testing law gave prosecutors the authority to decide whether to grant DNA testing in closed cases. The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office opposed the tests for almost six years, while Alan and Larry waited behind bars.

In 2005, the law was changed to give judges the power to order post-conviction testing of crime scene evidence. Washington Innocence Project filed a motion in 2006 seeking testing on behalf of Alan and Larry.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Harris, who had presided over the original trial, granted the testing request. After the court ordered testing, however, the shirt and pants worn by the victim during the assault were destroyed by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, before DNA testing could be conducted on the evidence.

Still, DNA tests were able to proceed on other crime scene evidence, including swabs in the rape kit that contained sperm cells and fingernail scrapings taken from the victim after the crime. The results revealed the genetic profiles of two unknown men, excluding Alan and Larry as possible sources.

Alan and Larry continued to fight for their freedom based on these results. Larry was released to community supervision in January 2010, having completed the entire in-custody portion of his sentence. Four months later, Judge Diane Woolard overturned all of their convictions based on the DNA results and Alan was released. On July 14, 2010, prosecutors officially dismissed the charges against Alan and Larry, and they were exonerated.

Jackie holding an old photo of Alan and Larry

*Based on the average annual per-person incarceration costs in Washington State as of May 2019. Does not include the financial cost of trial, appeals, community supervision, retrial, or related civil proceedings.
**Based on the average salary by age https://smartasset.com/retirement/the-average-salary-by-age; not including retirement or social security contributions.