On August 18, 1986, a woman was approached and pushed into her car, which was parked at the train station in Mount Vernon, New York. While the assailant drove, the victim was forced to remove her clothes and perform sexual acts with the man. They arrived at Wilson Woods Park, where the assailant threw her on the ground and raped her. He then left, taking her jewelry, handbag, and car.
The victim was unable to positively identify the perpetrator from six photographs the next day. She finally made a positive identification of Terry Chalmers after viewing a second lineup forty-six days after the crime, and Chalmers’s picture was the only one that was used in previous photo lineups. No other evidence was introduced other than the victim’s in-court identification, and on April 4, 1987, Chalmers was convicted of rape, sodomy, robbery, and two counts of grand larceny. He was sentenced to twelve to twenty-four years in prison.
Chalmers filed an appeal, claiming that the police did not properly conduct the photo lineups and were suggestive in the identification process. On July 18, 1990, the New York Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, ruling that even if the lineup was not properly conducted, the in-court identification was enough to convict Chalmers. He later discovered that the Westchester Department of Laboratories and Research had retained the rape kit and items of clothing which were used as evidence at trial and he petitioned for DNA testing with the help of the Innocence Project.
Forensic Science Associates performed PCR based DNA testing on the vaginal and cervical swabs from the rape kit. In a report dated July 8, 1994, it was determined that the victim could not be the source of DNA in the sperm fraction from the swabs. A second report on July 26, 1994, determined that Chalmers could be eliminated as the source of the spermatozoa from the vaginal and cervical swabs.
The conviction was subsequently vacated and charges were dismissed on April 5, 1995. Chalmers had spent seven and a half years in prison.
State: New York
Charge: Rape, Sodomy, Robbery, Grand Larceny
Conviction: Rape, Sodomy, Robbery, Grand Larceny (2 cts.)
Sentence: 12 to 24 years
Incident Date: 08/18/1986
Conviction Date: 05/04/1987
Exoneration Date: 04/05/1995
Accused Pleaded Guilty: No
Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification
Death Penalty Case: No
Race of Defendant: African American
Race of Victim: Caucasian
Status: Exonerated by DNA
Type of Crime: Other