Freed prisoner seeks compensation for tossed rape verdict

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana man imprisoned for nearly four decades until conviction in a 1979 rape was thrown out in 2018 is now fighting for compensation for being wrongfully convicted.

The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reports that attorneys for Malcolm Alexander took his argument for compensation to a state appeals court on Thursday.

Alexander, 62, was freed after attorneys successfully argued that he had ineffective trial lawyers. The defense also showed that DNA from evidence collected at the rape scene matched neither the victim nor Alexander.

Although Alexander was freed with agreement from prosecutors, a state judge later ruled that Alexander wasn’t eligible for money from the state innocence compensation fund. The judge said the evidence that resulted in his conviction being thrown out didn’t reach the level of proof needed to establish “factual innocence.”

A ruling in Alexander’s favor from the Louisiana 5th Circuit Court of Appeal would entitle him to $400,000 — $40,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, capped at 10 years, according to Alexander’s attorney, Zachary Crawford of the Innocence Project New Orleans.

Alexander was freed and prosecutors agreed not to pursue the case in 2018 after defense lawyers argued that Alexander’s lawyer at his 1980 trial failed to point out that the victim had been doubtful when she identified Alexander as her attacker in 1979.

DNA evidence consisted of pubic hairs gathered from the crime scene, a bathroom in the victim’s retail business. DNA testing later showed the hairs matched each other but did not belong to the victim or Alexander.

Crawford said Louisiana has granted every wrongful conviction compensation claim that has been based, in part, on DNA evidence.

“I just need people to realize that I’m innocent,” Alexander said. “Receiving the compensation will cap it off in saying, ‘All right, we apologize fully.’”

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