JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man’s conviction in a 1986 sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl was vacated.
“This is a glorious moment. Praise be to God,” Edward Clayton Taylor, 57, said Friday.
For 33 years, Taylor sat in prison. On Friday, he was exonerated.
“The court will vacate mister Edward C. Taylor’s conviction for the sexual assault that he was convicted of,” Judge London Kite said Friday in court.
Taylor then leaned over and began to cry tears of relief.
“I waited for this day,” he said after court. “I waited for this day it seems all my life, all my life, certainly all of my adult life.”
In 1986, the then-4-year-old, Stephanie McIntyre who’s now known as Stephanie Love, lived next door to Taylor, his son, his mother, his brother and his half-brother. Love was childhood friends with Taylor’s son, Jermaine.
The child tested positive for gonorrhea. That led to a law enforcement investigation.
Taylor was identified by the child as someone who touched her. He was arrested at age 21, tried and convicted of sexual battery of the child, who testified at the trial about what was done to her during a sleepover at Taylor’s house.
In 2010, the Innocence Project got involved in the case and found discrepancies.
Documents show the then-child identified the alleged rapist as “Jermaine’s daddy,” but investigation documents show Love said Jermaine had “two daddies” and “three daddies,” referring to Taylor’s brothers. Authorities never showed the child all photos of all three. There was never any DNA evidence linking Taylor to the child.
The Innocence Project filed a motion to vacate the conviction and sentence, and the State Attorney’s Office did not object to the motion.
Love is now living in South Carolina. Years ago, she told authorities she thought she got the identification wrong. That led to Taylor being released from prison by the pardon and parole board in 2019.
In court Friday, Love explained she misidentified Taylor as the predator.
“Mr. Taylor is not whatsoever guilty of this crime,” Love said. “It is my greatest wish for Mr. Edward Taylor that he be fully exonerated for a crime that we now know he did not commit.”
According to the State Attorney’s Office, Ithemas Anderson, Taylor’s half-brother, told the State Attorney’s Office that Anderson knew his brother Taylor was innocent, and Anderson did not deny molesting Love.
For Love and Taylor, they now stand side by side for justice and grateful that the court heard their truth: Taylor is innocent.
Taylor said now, with this behind him, he plans to marry his girlfriend and spend time with his family.
He will be removed from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sex offender registry.