Monday, July 7, 2008

Man who served almost a decade in prison for a rape he did not commit dedicates his life to other wrongly convicted men

As shown in this story, Ken Wyniemko spent nearly a decade behind bars for a rape he didn't commit. It is astounding that DNA evidence was available all that time but wasn't fully tested: "Semen was found on the victim's underwear and the bed sheets but wasn't fully analyzed before trial. Testing showed that the evidence on the sheets was consistent with the victim's husband's blood type — but not Wyniemko's."

Although the victim had initially described the rapist as a 20- to 25-year-old man and 6 feet or 6 feet, 2 inches tall weighing between 200 and 225 pounds, she picked Wyneimko out of line-up despite the fact he did not match that description. "They placed him in a lineup, but the victim did not initially pick him. After meeting alone with police and a prosecutor, and then having the men in the lineup speak, she identified Wyniemko, then 43, as the rapist. He was 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighed less than 200 pounds, bearing little physical resemblance to her first descriptions of her attacker." Although no physical evidence tied Wyniemko to the crime, a jailhouse snitch who was given a reduced sentence testified that Wyniemko had confessed. And an ex-girlfriend described his preferred sexual practices as similar to what the victim described.

Mr. Wyniemko was one of the lucky ones. He was able to attract the attention of people concerned about innocent prisoners. The DNA was properly tested, and he was freed. Now that he's out, he's dedicating his life to helping other wrongly convicted men.

It is unspeakably cruel to have a decade of your life taken away by the injustice of a false rape conviction. One can't even begin to imagine the ways this destroys a man. "The day he was released he first visited the grave of his father, who had died while Wyniemko was incarcerated. Then he went to Greektown's New Parthenon for dinner. He laughs when he recounts his trip to the men's room, where he was confused by a urinal with no handle to flush it — motion-sensitive flushing became the norm while he was locked up."

The worst part? So many more innocent men most assuredly are serving time. Many have no chance of being exonerated because DNA evidence doesn't exist. Their insistence that they are innocent long ago fell on deaf ears, their lives taken from them because of a culture that cares more about convicting men for rape than about insuring the men convicted are actually rapists.