A woman was raped in July 1976 near her Rochester apartment. She was accosted in the apartment building's parking lot just after 2 a.m. and knocked to the ground, hitting her head on the concrete.
She didn't see her attacker before hitting her head. She was dragged to the side of a nearby house and raped. When the perpetrator fled, she went to her apartment building and asked the building superintendent to call the police.
Freddie Peacock (left) lived in the same apartment building as the victim, and she made a shaky identification of him as the perpetrator. Barely two hours after the attack, Peacock was arrested and interrogated for about two and a half hours. He initially denied any involvement in the crime, but police claim he ultimately confessed. Peacock told the detective handling the interrogation that he had severe mental illness and had been hospitalized for it several times. In his alleged confession, Peacock could not tell officers where, when or how the victim was raped. He was tried and convicted.
In 2002, when he had been out of prison for two decades, Peacock contacted the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. After thoroughly researching his case, the Innocence Project accepted him as a client and began searching for evidence for DNA testing. Ultimately, DNA testing was conducted on bodily fluids in underwear the victim wore before and after the rape. The case became complicated when the victim's boyfriend could not be located to give a DNA sample (which could rule him out as the source of the semen portion of the bodily fluid, meaning it definitely came from the perpetrator). The victim's boyfriend had been deported to another country, but his biological mother, who lives in another state, provided a DNA sample that proved he was not the source of the semen part of the bodily fluids. DNA testing also excluded Peacock as the source – meaning that another, unknown man was the rapist.
Since his release from prison, Peacock has relied on the support of his family and church community in the Rochester area. He continues rigorous treatment for mental illness and issued a short statement through the Innocence Project, saying: "I never gave up hope that this day would come. When the truth is all you have, you learn to hang onto it. I am grateful to my family and everyone who has supported me over the years. I am looking forward to moving on with my life, now that my name is finally cleared."
The Monroe County District Attorney's Office consented to DNA testing and is joining the Innocence Project in a motion to vacate Peacock's conviction and dismiss the indictment against him, which fully exonerates him. Several Cardozo law students in the Innocence Project clinic worked on the case, and Don Thompson of Easton Thompson Kasperek Shiffrin, LLP was co-counsel with the Innocence Project.
Dear Freddie, I felt compelled to write a reply here and let you know that there are reasonable people out there in the world who care, who have a heart like me. I feel the pain of injustice when an innocent person is convicted of a crime that they didn’t commit, and who pays with their life in jail. I stumbled upon your story this morning in the D&C and it made me said to read that you have lost your zest for life. I hope you see that your story and your work now is bigger than life, it’s a gift to others and giving to others is a gift to you. Sending well wishes to you and your family. Kathy Clary, Florida.