Associated Press

DNA tests clear man after 17 years in prison for rape
By Associated Press
August 27, 2004

DECATUR, Ga. - A man who spent 17 years in prison for rape, kidnapping and robbery has been cleared by new DNA evidence, his lawyers said.

Clarence Harrison, 44, of Decatur, was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 on charges of sexually assaulting a hospital employee as she waited for a MARTA bus.

DNA tests of the rape kit used as evidence against Harrison show that he did not commit the rape, said Aimee Maxwell, director of the Georgia Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project was to disclose the new findings at a news conference at the DeKalb County Courthouse on Friday and announce that lawyers will ask for a new trial expected to lead to their client's exoneration.

The Innocence Project has been working on Harrison's case since February 2003, when the group received a letter from him.

Maxwell said that when Harrison was told that the tests showed his DNA did not match the assailant's, he showed no surprise.

"He was very calm about it," she said. "That's because he already knew the answer."

According to a police report, the 25-year-old victim, who worked at Grady Memorial Hospital, was standing at a MARTA bus stop at 6 a.m. Oct. 25, 1986, when a man walked up, struck her in the face and said, "If you scream, I'll kill you right here." He walked her to a wooded area and repeatedly raped and sodomized her, the report said.

The attacker took her money and watch and knocked out two front teeth.

The woman initially identified Harrison from a photographic lineup and later identified him at the trial, Maxwell said.

David Wolfe, an Atlanta lawyer who volunteered to represent Harrison, called the case "one of those examples where technology demonstrates that eyewitness identification and other testimony at trial isn't as reliable as people believe it is."

Maxwell and Wolfe praised the DeKalb County district attorney's office for its cooperation on the DNA tests.

"The office demonstrates what the justice system is about: seeking the truth," Wolfe said.

More than 150 convictions have been overturned nationwide based on new DNA test results, Maxwell said.

The Georgia Innocence Project,
founded two years ago, has received letters from more than 1,400 inmates seeking to have their convictions overturned. The project has six open cases and is investigating more than 250 others.

Earlier this month, in its first case, the Innocence Project announced that DNA tests conducted by Forensic Science Associates had validated a jury's verdict that Joe Brown of Lowndes County did rape a Valdosta woman in 1987.

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