New DNA Evidence Exonerates Man Of Rape In Westchester: DA Seeks To Vacate Conviction

DA officials are asking the court to vacate the conviction of a 72-year-old man who served numerous years in prison for a 1975 rape in Westchester that he was found to have not committed thanks to new DNA evidence. 

DNA testing has led to the exoneration of Leonard Mack, who was convicted of rape in Greenburgh in 1976.
DNA testing has led to the exoneration of Leonard Mack, who was convicted of rape in Greenburgh in 1976. Photo Credit: Pixabay/geralt

The Westchester County District Attorney's Office will ask the court to vacate the conviction of South Carolina resident Leonard Mack, age 72, who spent over seven years in prison for a 1975 rape in Greenburgh, DA officials announced on Tuesday, Sept. 5. 

At the time of the rape, on May 23, 1975, Mack had been accused of forcing two high school students at gunpoint into the woods, tying them up, gagging, and blindfolding them, and raping one of the girls twice and attempting to sexually assault the other. 

A few hours after this incident, Mack was arrested by the then-Westchester County Parkway Police on the Bronx River Parkway, who had told him he fit the suspect's description of a Black man wearing a hat and an earring. Mack was then charged with rape and other charges.

Although he attempted to assert his innocence and presented alibi witnesses during his trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on April 27, 1976. During his sentence, he made numerous challenges to his conviction, all opposed by the Westchester DA's Office and denied by courts. 

However, nearly 50 years after Mack's original conviction in August 2022, current Westchester County District Attorney Miriam Rocah had her Conviction Review Unit look into the sentencing at the request of the Innocence Project. This investigation ultimately found that eyewitness identifications of Mack had been tainted by "problematic and suggestive" police procedures, DA officials said. 

Additionally, the discovery of physical evidence from the incident preserved since 1975 led to DNA testing, which excluded Mack's DNA, officials added. 

These DNA testing results instead matched a Westchester man who had been convicted of a 1975 rape in Queens two weeks after the Greenburgh incident, as well as a 2004 sex crime in Greenburgh. When this man was interviewed by a DA's Office investigator, he confessed to committing the 1975 Greenburgh rape. 

The man's identity was not released by officials, and because of New York State's statute of limitations, he cannot be prosecuted for the 1975 crime. He is now instead being prosecuted for failing to register as a sex offender after the 2004 incident. 

As a result of Mack's exoneration, the DA's Office and Mack's attorneys from the Innocence Project will be appearing before New York State Supreme Court Judge Anne E. Minihan at the Westchester County Courthouse on Tuesday morning to ask that his conviction be overturned. 

"We’re asking the courts to find Leonard Mack actually innocent for a rape he never committed; for which he unjustly served more than seven years in prison," Rocah said, adding, "This exoneration confirms that wrongful convictions are not only harmful to the wrongly convicted but also make us all less safe." 

Mack's attorney from the Innocence Project, Susan Friedman, also commented on the wrongful conviction. 

"Mr. Mack has lived with the stigma of this wrongful conviction for nearly five decades," Friedman said, adding, "His courage and determination are why we now have indisputable scientific evidence that proves he is innocent." 

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