Leonard Callace

Leonard Callace was a cab driver, construction worker, and petty thief. In July 1986, he was charged with the January 1985 sexual assault of an 18-year-old nursing home aide at knifepoint in the parking lot of a shopping center. She had been accosted by two men and forced into a nearby car. The second man was never identified.

The victim picked Callace out of a lineup as her assailant. Eighteen months earlier, she had described her assailant as 5′ 10″ or taller, with reddish-blond afro style hair, a full beard, and a cross tattoo on his left hand. Callace is 5′ 8″, had straight blond hair, a tightly trimmed goatee, and a tiny cross on his right hand. Prosecutors offered a deal to Callace: that he plead guilty and serve just four more months. Callace refused. The jury took one hour to convict him of four counts of sodomy, three counts of sexual abuse, wrongful imprisonment, and criminal possession of a weapon. On March 24, 1987, he was sentenced to twenty-five to fifty years in prison.

At trial, the prosecution presented a sketch by police artists resembling Callace, the victim’s identification of Callace from a photo array and the victim’s in-court identification of Callace. The prosecution also showed that the blood group (ABO type) of the semen collected from the scene was the same as Callace’s. Callace presented an alibi, but it was uncorroborated.

Callace’s conviction was confirmed on appeal. After learning about DNA testing, he asked his attorney about the original trial evidence. The attorney remembered that the victim had just picked up her jeans from the cleaners and that she had spit out semen onto the jeans after one of the assaults. The jeans were secured from the prosecution for DNA testing at Lifecodes, Inc. On June 27, 1991, a judge granted Callace’s motion to consider DNA tests as new evidence. He also ruled that if the samples did not match, he would hold a hearing to consider post-conviction relief for Callace.

RFLP analysis on the victim’s jeans showed that the DNA in the semen stains did not match Callace.

On October 5, 1992, Callace was released from prison. The prosecution dismissed all charges and did not pursue a new trial because of the DNA evidence and the reluctance of the victim to have another trial. Callace had served almost six years of his sentence.

Time Served:

5 years

State: New York

Charge: Sodomy, Sexual Abuse, Wrongful Imprisonment, Criminal Possession of Weapon

Conviction: Sodomy (4 cts.), Sexual Abuse (3 cts.), Wrongful Imprisonment, Criminal Possession of Weapon

Sentence: 25 to 50 years

Incident Date: 01/30/1985

Conviction Date: 03/24/1987

Exoneration Date: 10/05/1992

Accused Pleaded Guilty: No

Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification

Death Penalty Case: No

Race of Exoneree: Caucasian

Race of Victim: Caucasian

Status: Exonerated by DNA

Type of Crime: Sex Crimes

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