On August 28, 1992, a Black male entered the victim's apartment, claiming he was wanted for murder and needed money to get to New York. He stole money and credit cards and raped her.
Immediately after the intruder left her apartment, the victim called the police and described her assailant and his clothing. She was taken to a hospital, where biological samples were taken. The following day, she was shown many slides and photographs, including one of McKinley Cromedy, but could not identify her assailant. On April 7, 1993, almost eight months later, the victim saw a man on the street whom she believed was her attacker. Within fifteen minutes, she viewed the defendant in a show-up and identified him as her attacker.
Saliva and blood samples were taken from Cromedy for analysis. No forensic evidence linking him to the crime was presented during the trial. Fingerprints did not match him, hair samples recovered from the victim were not hers or Cromedy’s, and blood samples showed that Cromedy was a non-secretor. Nevertheless, the defense avoided DNA testing at trial because they felt the case was so strong that it wasn’t worth the risk of testing. In August 1994, Cromedy was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault, second-degree robbery, third-degree burglary, third-degree aggravated criminal sexual contact, and third-degree terroristic threats and sentenced to sixty years with twenty-five years of parole ineligibility.
At trial, the victim provided eyewitness testimony and a description of her attacker and his clothing. A detective who knew Cromedy corroborated the victim’s claim that her attacker had a strange walk. Cromedy was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Cromedy’s appeal addressed the cross-racial identification because the judge refused to instruct the jury on the permissibility of treating cross-racial identifications as less trustworthy than same-race identifications. On these grounds, the New Jersey Supreme Court threw out Cromedy’s conviction.
After the high court granted a new trial, the prosecution agreed to DNA testing. The tests were conducted by the New Jersey State Police crime laboratory and the results excluded Cromedy as a possible contributor of the DNA profile found on a vaginal swab on December 8, 1999. After over five years in prison, Cromedy was released on December 20, 1999.
New Jersey statute limits compensation for wrongfully convicted individuals to $20,000 per year of wrongful incarceration. In 2002, he was awarded compensation under the state statute.
State: New Jersey
Charge: Sexual Assault, Robbery, Burglary, Criminal Sexual Contact, Terroristic Threats
Conviction: Aggravated Sexual Assault, Robbery, Third-degree Burglary, Agg. Criminal Sexual Conduct, Terroristic Threats
Sentence: 60 years
Incident Date: 08/28/1992
Conviction Date: 08/01/1994
Exoneration Date: 12/20/1999
Accused Pleaded Guilty: No
Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification
Death Penalty Case: No
Race of Exoneree: African American
Race of Victim: Caucasian
Status: Exonerated by DNA
Type of Crime: Sex Crimes