New DNA evidence clears 72-year-old man after decades of wrongful conviction

On his 72nd birthday, Leonard Mack received the gift of a lifetime. A gift that he’s been waiting for nearly five decades.

“For 48 long years, I walked about society being labeled a rapist when I know I didn’t do it,” said the Vietnam War veteran who served more than seven years in prison after being convicted back in 1975. 

At the time, police said Mack matched the description of a man who tied up two Greenburgh high school students at gunpoint and brutally raped one of the victims. Mack was arrested by parkway police and the Town of Greenburgh Police Department conducted an investigation and charged Mack with rape. 

“Walking around prison yards, knowing that all the time I was innocent. But I never gave up hope. I kept the faith,” Mack told FOX 5 New York. 

Mack has spent years trying to clear his name. He attempted several times to prove his innocence, first through appeals and then through the Innocence Project who took up the case and brought it to Westchester District Attorney Miriam Rocah and her conviction review unit.

Through DNA evidence, which didn’t exist at the time of Mack’s conviction, Mack was cleared and matched another man to the crime who ultimately confessed. 

Today, the DA apologized on behalf of the criminal justice system that she said failed Mack, the rape victims and an entire community 

“The criminal justice system, including the DA’s office, failed him. Failed to protect an innocent man,” said Rocah.

According to the Innocence Project, this is the oldest wrongful conviction in U.S. history to be overturned by new DNA evidence. 

Now, Mack lives in South Carolina with his wife and his faith is stronger than ever. He’s planning to join the prison ministry to serve those affected by crime and incarceration.

The man who ultimately confessed to the 1975 rape cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations. But he was convicted of a rape in Queens two weeks after this case and a sex crime in Greenburgh in 2004. He’s currently being prosecuted for failing to register as a sex offender.

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