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Six years ago today: Clark McMillan exonerated in Tennessee

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Posted: May 2, 2008   5:11 PM

On May 2, 2002, Innocence Project client Clark McMillan became the 108th person exonerated in the United States by DNA evidence. He served 22 years in Tennessee prison for a rape and robbery he didn’t commit before his release.

The crime happened in 1979, when a 16-year-old girl and her boyfriend were attacked in Memphis. Both were robbed and the girl was raped by the perpetrator. The two victims were first shown a photo lineup including McMillan – the girl selected no one and the boyfriend pointed to someone else. Police then showed the victims a live lineup. This time the girl identified McMillan, but the boyfriend selected a “filler” – a non-suspect inserted in the lineup as a control. At trial, both identified McMillan as the perpetrator. Additionally, neither victim mentioned during the investigation that the perpetrator walked with a limp, which McMillan did. At trial, however, the female victim added the limp to her description of the perpetrator.

McMillan’s case illustrates how unreliable eyewitness identifications can be. Learn more about his case here, and read about other eyewitness misidentifications here.

The first DNA exoneration in the United States was in 1989. McMillan was the 108th exoneree in 2002 – it took 13 years for the first 108 people to be exonerated by DNA evidence. But in the last six years, another 108 people have been cleared by DNA testing – bringing today’s total to 216 people exonerated by DNA evidence. How many more will be cleared in the next six years? View a chart of exonerations by year since 1989.

Other exoneration anniversaries this week

Thursday: Drew Whitley, Pennsylvania (Served 16.5 Years, Exonerated 5/1/06)

Saturday: Danny Brown, Ohio (Served 18.5 Years, Exonerated 5/3/01)

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