Saturday, May 31, 2008

KC man convicted of rape he committed while still teenage - 18 year DNA storage cracks case

Harry McNeal, now 33, will spend more time in prison because of rape due to DNA evidence kept for the last 18 years. Jackson County jurors convicted him of an attack on a then 29 year old woman in 1990 as she slept with her then 6 year old son. The then 15 year old assailant pointed a handgun at her, raped her in front of her son, then stole $75 from her. Jurors acquitted McNeal of an armed robbery charge because it was unclear if the gun was out when he stole the money.

After the verdict, the victim, now 47, and her son, now 24, discussed the case in the courthouse hallway. Science closed the case, they said, and protected others from McNeal.

Police matched semen from the 1990 rape to McNeal last year and charged him as he was about to finish a 17-year sentence for another rape. He went to prison for that crime in 1991 as part of a plea deal.

The trial this week also demonstrated how sure DNA is compared to eyewitness evidence, which is a leading cause of false convictions.

Police matched semen from the rape to McNeal last year and charged him just before he would have finished a 17 year sentence for another rape. In 1991, the victim pointed to another man as part of a lineup, not McNeal. At trial, defense attorney Molly Hastings noted than and tried to blame the other man for the rape, but prosecutors countered with the evidence that there was a 1 in 7.3 quadrillion (1 with 15 zeros after it) that anyone but McNeal was the rapist.

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