Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nine years in prison for a rape he didn't commit

Nine years in prison for a rape he didn't commit, and even after he got out, "many people" still thought he was guilty. A tragedy. Yet, the story focuses not so much on the man as on whether another man, the one who actually might have committed the rape, can be prosecuted so many years after the fact, or whether the statute of limitations bars his prosecution.

Note that typically, when the statute of limitations bars the prosecution of a false accuser, there isn't nearly so much journalistic concern.

HERE IS THE STORY:

Innocent man, now free, served 9 years for crime he didn't commit

By Gordon Wilczynski
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

A 1994 Clinton Township rape, which resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of an innocent man, has now been linked to another suspect.

But the current suspect, now in prison for another crime, could avoid criminal charges in the rape if police and prosecutors determine the statute of limitation applies to the crime.

"I've waited 14 years for this," said Kenneth Wyniemko, who served nearly nine years in prison for the crime he didn't commit. "I'm entitled to know who that person is who raped that woman."

No charges have been filed while authorities review DNA evidence and laws applying to the case.
Wyniemko, who received a multi-million dollar court settlement as a result of his imprisonment, admits many people thought he was guilty even after his release. But he said a few friends believed in him and worked behind the scenes to get him a new trial.

"Kenny wouldn't rape anybody," said Marty Hacias, a longtime friend of Wyniemko.

Police have DNA evidence linking someone else to the rape of a 25-year-old Clinton Township woman who was attacked in her home as she slept in 1994.

The man wore a mask to cover his face.

Clinton Township and the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the incident.

Neither Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith nor Clinton Township Detective Capt. Richard Maierle would confirm on Friday they have another suspect.

But those familiar with the case insist Michigan State Police have DNA that points to a 40-year-old former Macomb County man currently serving an 18-month jail sentence.

State police notified Clinton Township police that they have a positive DNA hit.

The only problem, officials privately say, is whether the statute of limitations, which used to be six years, would apply to the crime.

That point is not clear because of changes in the statute.

Wyniemko, who testified recently before a committee of the Michigan House of about false imprisonment, said the recent arrest and DNA evidence -- whether the man is charged or not -- should end any doubts about his innocence.

"I'm happy as hell," Wyniemko said.

He said June 17 marked the fifth anniversary of his exoneration.

Since then he has been traveling around the country speaking out about people being falsely charged with a crime and then convicted to a lengthy jail term.

"You know, I really want to know who the person is whose DNA was found on the victim," said Wyniemko. "I want to know who he is and talk to him about staying silent all of these years."

It was learned that the new suspect's DNA was found on a rag he stuck in her mouth and on a cigarette he was smoking outside of her window while he was watching her.

Police managed to tie him to the rape when he was arrested earlier this year in Cheboygan, and his DNA was obtained by authorities.

The victim has since moved to Indiana.

She could not be reached for comment about the new evidence.

In the Clinton Township case, police believe the suspect stalked his victim from either a parking lot or a bowling alley where she and her husband bowled once a week.

Barbara O'Brien, a law professor at Michigan State University, said she doesn't believe the statute of limitations would apply to this case.

She said the statute doesn't start to run until police identify an individual as a suspect.

Macomb County criminal attorney David Griem said he believes the statute of limitations concerning a rape case could be extended, depending on the circumstances.

"There are cases where the courts have extended the statute of limitations for reasons such as the defendant left the jurisdiction of Michigan," Griem said.

"I'm not sure with DNA where you don't discover that someone is the perpetrator until 15 years afterwards. Do you start counting the six years from the date you discover who the perpetrator is or does the six years run from the date of the offense?"

Link: http://www.macombdaily.com/stories/062908/loc_local03.shtml