Michigan Man Released After Spending Nine Years in Jail for Rape He Did Not Commit

Kenneth Wyniemko, 52, was recently released from a Michigan prison after DNA tests exonerated him of a brutal rape for which he served more than nine years in jail.

Wyniemko was sentenced to 40 to 60 years in jail after being convicted of an extraordinarily brutal rape. A 28-year-old Clinton Township woman was raped repeatedly for three to four hours and then stole of several thousand dollars.

Although less-sophisticated tests of blood, semen and hair showed at the time that Wyniemko was not likely to be the suspect, he was convicted largely due to the testimony of the victim who made what police and a jury believed was a strong identification. In addition, when he was arrested Wyniemko had $3,000 in cash without a good explanation of where the money came from.

But new tests show that none of the blood, semen or hair samples collected at the scene of the crime matches Wyniemko’s DNA. One main lesson that has emerged from the 128 DNA exonerations of convicts nationwide is just how unreliable eyewitness testimony often is.

Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga apologized to Wyniemko for the near-decade he spent in jail for a crime he did not commit. Of course Macomb County has another problem on its hands — a brutal rapist who is possibly living in the community. Police submitted the DNA samples to a nationwide database of convicted criminals, but came up with no matches.

This case also highlights the need for laws that allow convicted criminals to use DNA tests to challenge their convictions even if their appeals have already been exhausted. Wyniemko’s case was taken up by the Thomas Cooley Law Schools’s Innocence Project after Michigan passed a law in 2001 allowing for new DNA testing in rape convictions where the identity of the assailant was not established through scientific tests.

Sources:

DNA tests exonerate man. Kim North Shine, Detroit Free Press, June 12, 2003.

Man who spent nearly a decade in prison for rape freed after DNA evidence clears him. Associated Press, June 17, 2003.

Man cleared of crime by DNA likely to be freed. Associated Press, June 12, 2003.

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