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30 Jan, 2018 22:00

Louisiana man freed after 37yrs in prison for crime he didn’t commit

Louisiana man freed after 37yrs in prison for crime he didn’t commit

A Louisiana man, who for 37 years maintained his innocence in a rape case, has been freed after a Jefferson Parish judge overturned his conviction.

Judge June Darensberg vacated Malcolm Alexander’s 1980 conviction based on the Innocence Project’s application arguing that his counsel provided “ineffective assistance.” The effort was bolstered by DNA testing that excluded Alexander as a suspect, according to Innocence Project Director Barry Scheck.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for getting my child out of that place,” Alexander’s mother, Maudra, 82, who is wheelchair bound, told attorneys from the Innocence Project, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Alexander, an African-American, was charged with the November 8, 1979 rape of a 39-year-old woman who was working in an antique shop in Jefferson Parish. The woman told police her attacker raped her twice in a bathroom while armed with a gun, according to court records.

The victim identified Alexander in a March 1980 photo line-up, after looking through “hundreds of photos” and at least five other photographic lineups, according to court documents.

The victim only “tentatively” identified Alexander and was uncertain that he was her attacker after an in-person lineup, according to the Innocence Project.

DNA evidence from the case, once thought lost, was rediscovered in 2013 and also played a key role in reversing the conviction, his lawyers said. The evidence consisted of pubic hairs gathered from the crime scene. DNA testing showed the hairs matched each other, but did not belong to the victim or Alexander, bolstering the argument he was not the attacker.

During his one-day trial, Alexander’s attorney Joseph Tosh didn’t offer an opening statement and didn’t call any witnesses, court records showed.

“His trial lawyer did virtually nothing to defend him,” Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin said, declaring that Tosh failed to mention the victim was unsure of her identification. “That was really pivotal because of this entire case rested on a single identification.”

Alexander was convicted of aggravated rape and sentence to life in prison on December 10, 1980.

Tosh was permanently disbarred in 1999 for a number of infractions, including engaging in deceit, dishonesty, and fraud and lack of competence and diligence, court documents showed.