In the United States, an African-American cleared of rape half a century later

A 72-year-old African-American was cleared Tuesday by a court near New York, thanks to new DNA evidence, of a rape perpetrated in 1975 and for which he had been imprisoned for more than 7 years, one of the oldest recognized miscarriages of justice in the United States.

According to Innocence Projectwhich had seized, with the prosecution of Westchester County, the highest court in the State of New York, it is indeed the oldest known conviction to fall in the United States thanks to DNA evidence, on a total of more than 3,300 people cleared since 1989.

Leonard Mack, who was walking with a cane on Tuesday and appeared very emotional at the hearing, was in his twenties when he was arrested on May 22, 1975, for the rape a few hours earlier of a high school girl, who was walking with a friend in the small town of Greenburgh, in the same county.

“Although he asserts his innocence, and presents witnesses confirming his alibi”, according to the prosecution, Leonard Mack, who had fought in the Vietnam War, was sentenced a year later for rape and possession of a weapon to a penalty ranging from seven and a half to fifteen years in a state prison.

“I can really say that I am free”

The two victims had been pushed to recognize it, after “identifications tainted by biased and problematic methods of the police”, underlined the prosecution. Methods that are more often victims of black and Hispanic people, according to Innocence Project.

Leonard Mack, who spent more than 7 years in prison and lives in the south of the United States, had always fought for his innocence. But it was not until 2022 that the prosecution reopened the file and carried out analyzes based on DNA traces that remained valid on a victim’s underwear.

The analyzes put him out of the cause and on the contrary allowed to confuse another suspect, in prison in another case. He admitted the 1975 rape but can no longer be convicted under the statute of limitations.

“Now I can really say that I am free,” said Leonard Mack, in tears, according to excerpts from the White Plains court hearing, broadcast by American media.

According to the 2022 report of the “National Registry of Exonerations”, a project led by several American universities, black people represent 13% of the population in the United States, but accounted for 53% of declarations of innocence after miscarriages of justice since 1989 .

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