Atlanta, GA (CBS46) A 20 year-old project that uses DNA to help solve cases did more than put criminals behind bars.

It gave one man who was wrongfully-convicted the freedom he deserved.

John White is now a free man but not after serving more than 20 years in prison for brutal crimes he didn't commit.

It started with getting picked out of the lineup by a victim in Meriwether County in 1979.

"She made a mistake and I don’t know if it was influenced by anyone or what but she made a mistake and chose me," White told CBS46 News.

The GBI DNA testing unit showed that White did not commit the rape the robbery and the beating of the elderly woman.

GBI director Vernon Keenan used White's case as an example as the bureau marks a DNA milestone.

20 years of using CODIS, the combined DNA index system.

It allows forensic labs across the country to compare DNA profiles and look for matches.

"It is my belief that DNA is the greatest tool for the administration of justice that we’ve ever had," said White.

The GBI has has more than 6,500 confirmed hits in 20 years linking criminals to crimes.

In White's case, with the help of the Georgia Innocence Project, DNA led to his exoneration and led investigators to another man.

"Once they entered my DNA in it they immediately got a hit and it works,” continued White.

Scientists only need a DNA sample the size of a point of pen. The science has come a long way over the years.

Right now, the GBI DNA database has 360,000 profiles in it.

Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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