Leonard Mark, who was the victim of a wrongful conviction of rape he did not commit, received the greatest gift of his life on his 72nd Birthday as a State Supreme Court judge of Westchester County officially exonerated him after 47 years of wrong conviction against him.
Mark served seven and half years in prison for a rape he did not commit.
Leonard Mark: Man Wrongfully Convicted Of Rape Released After 47 Years:
In an emotional hearing on Tuesday, Leonard Mark hugged the presiding judge who stepped down during the hearing as she officially exonerated Mark from wrongful rape charges against him which was the longest wrongful conviction in the history of the US.
On May 22, 1975, Mark was arrested in Greenburgh, New York two and a half hours after the rape of a teenage girl walking back home with a friend after school. The two teenage girls were stopped on their way back home, tied up, gagged, and blinded as their attacker raped one of them twice while the other girl was attempted to sexually assault but she broke free and ran to the school from where the police were called.
The attack happened on two white girls in a predominantly white colony and the Greenburgh Police Department put on a call for a Black male in his early 20s to be the suspect of the case. Mark, who is black and was driving from the area was arrested as he matched the description of the attacker even though he had an alibi and was wearing different clothes from the description of the attacker.
Mark despite presenting an alibi was charged guilty of first-degree rape and second-degree possession of a weapon. Mark tried to challenge his conviction multiple times in the 1980s but served seven and a half years in prison.
According to the Innocent Project, the wrongful identification by witnesses and racial bias in the investigation and legal criminal proceedings led to the wrongful conviction of Mark and not the investigation of other suspects.
The Innocent Project claimed that the victims displayed various photo arrays where the material wrongfully pointed Mark as a perpetrator.
They also claimed at the time of trial flawed forensic reports were presented despite the medical examiner did not find Mark a match from the crime scene.
In 2022, the Innocent Project once again requested to reopen the investigation where the victim's underwear cuttings were sent to the lab testings for modern DNA tests that were not available at the time of the case. The test reports proved Mark to not be the perpetrator in the case and eventually led investigators to the actual sex offender.
The real sex offender of the case later confessed his crimes and was convicted of burglary and rape in Queens weeks after the incident in Greenburgh and also in 2004 for sexual assault and burglary on a woman in Westchester County.
State Supreme Court Judge, Annie E. Minihan overturned Mark's wrongful conviction after almost 5 decades which led him to languish for seven and half years in prison.
The judge told Mark it was an honour for her to exonerate him from the wrongful conviction and left her seat to hug him after an emotional hearing.
The 72-year-old Mark, the veteran of the Vietnam War said that he has spent seven and half years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit which hanged on his head for over 5 decades and has cost him changing everything from his house to his relationships.
Mark who has been living in South Carolina with his wife for 21 years said the truth finally came to life and he can finally breathe as he is free now.
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