Leonard McSherry

In March 1988, Leonard McSherry was charged with rape, oral copulation, digital penetration, and kidnapping. He was convicted and sentenced to 48 years for the kidnap and rape of a six-year-old girl. McSherry served 13 years before DNA testing in 2001 proved that he was not the perpetrator.

The six-year-old victim was kidnapped from a park near her home, driven to a house, and raped. When she arrived at the hospital, examinations revealed extreme swelling in her genital area and fresh bleeding.

The girl positively identified McSherry twice from photo lineups and recognized him at a live lineup. A neighbor testified that she saw McSherry in the park where the girl was kidnapped and picked him out of a live lineup and a photo lineup. The girl’s four-year-old brother also identified McSherry in a showup, but not at a live lineup. The girl also identified McSherry’s grandparents’ house as the house where the rape occurred. She was also able to give correct details about its interior.

At trial, a forensic analyst testified that although one of the stains found on the victim’s underwear showed A blood type activity which excluded the defendant, the result was inconclusive because “based on my experience,” that result could have been due to “bacterial contamination.” No tests were conducted to examine that theory.

In 1992, McSherry sought a new trial based on newly discovered biological evidence. He was denied on grounds that the type of testing and the fragments of evidence available were insufficient, despite the fact that available tests excluded him. The State also provided experts to counter the evidence tested by the defense. The court felt the conflicting opinions meant that the evidence would have little weight.

The evidence in McSherry’s case was eventually subjected to DNA testing in 2001. The test excluded McSherry. The DNA was attributed to George Valdespino, 59, who was now serving 45 years to life in prison for the 1997 kidnapping and molestation of another girl. When questioned in prison, Valdespino admitted he had kidnapped the six-year-old form Long Beach’s Navy Housing Project and raped her in a motel room.

McSherry later was awarded $481,000 in compensation from the State for thirteen years of wrongful incarceration.

Time Served:

13 years

State: California

Charge: Rape, Oral Copulation, Digital Penetration, Kidnapping

Conviction: Rape, Oral Copulation, Digital Penetration, Kidnapping

Sentence: 48 years

Incident Date: 03/11/1988

Conviction Date: 10/25/1988

Exoneration Date: 12/28/2001

Accused Pleaded Guilty: No

Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science

Death Penalty Case: No

Race of Exoneree: Caucasian

Race of Victim: Caucasian

Status: Exonerated by DNA

Alternative Perpetrator Identified: Yes

Type of Crime: Sex Crimes

Forensic Science at Issue: Flawed Serology

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