UPDATERichard Alexander Sues South Bend, Indiana Police

DNA Clears Man of Rape Charges

December 12,2001 Filed at 9:37 p.m. ET

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- A man who had been cleared of rape charges by DNA evidence was freed Wednesday after serving more than five years of a 70-year prison sentence.

Richard Alexander, 35, had been convicted for two attacks that police believed to be part of a series of rapes committed by the same person. He walked out of court on Wednesday, free for the first time since his arrest in August 1996.

``Richard has proclaimed his innocence from day one to anyone who would listen to him. He is extremely happy to be vindicated,'' said Brian Eisenman, a deputy public defender.

Alexander originally was charged with four rapes in South Bend, based solely on the testimony of victims and witnesses who had identified him.

His first trial in June 1997 ended in a hung jury. In March 1998, he was acquitted in one of the three remaining attacks but convicted in the other two.

``We had a gut feeling that Alexander was not the guy,'' said South Bend police Sgt. Cindy Eastman. ``But the conviction went forward on the good-faith belief by the witnesses that the evidence pointed in that direction. You can only take your gut feeling so far.''

At least three similar attacks occurred after Alexander was arrested, authorities said.  Then another man, Michael Murphy, recently confessed to one of the rapes for which Alexander was convicted. Murphy is in custody for several
offenses, including burglary and child molesting.

Alexander was finally cleared when a type of DNA test that was not available when he was convicted came back Saturday showing he could not have committed the Aug. 7, 1996 attack.

Alexander was cleared in both rape cases because authorities are confident they were committed by the same person.

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