08/11/2008

DNA test expected to free Ohio rapist

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Dallas man freed from prison after 25 years

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A man convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl was expected to be released Monday after 17 years in prison because a lab re-examining cases across Ohio showed that his DNA profile doesn't match evidence from the crime scene.

Robert McClendon, 52, was the first inmate tested in the review. He and lawyers from the Ohio Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic based at the University of Cincinnati, were scheduled to appear in court.

It was unclear whether Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien would ask the judge for a new trial. A message seeking comment was left for O'Brien.

McClendon, who denied raping the girl, was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He was denied parole in 2007.

DNA Diagnostics Center, a lab north of Cincinnati, agreed to conduct tests on McClendon and other inmates for free as a public service after The Columbus Dispatch published a series in January featuring 30 inmates whose applications for new DNA testing had been stalled.

The newspaper's investigation also found flaws in the state's DNA testing system: Police and courts routinely discard evidence after trials, and prosecutors and judges often dismiss inmate applications for DNA testing without a stated reason.

In McClendon's case, authorities had long since lost or thrown away swabs from the victim's medical exam - typically the best evidence for testing rape cases - but agreed to provide the lab with the girl's underwear.

Using new technology unavailable at the time of the crime, the lab found faint traces of semen that didn't match McClendon's DNA profile, the Innocence Project announced last month.

Prosecutors said McClendon took a 10-year-old relative from her backyard, blindfolded her, drove her to a house and raped her. The victim reported the rape the next day and was taken to a hospital.

McClendon was convicted in the 1970s of attempted corruption of a minor for having sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 19.

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