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Robert McClendon: "Hello Truth."

August 27, 2008

An unprecedented yearlong investigation into selected rape and homicide convictions in the state of Ohio recently culminated in the release of Robert McClendon, who served 18 years for child rape, a crime which he steadfastly denied committing. McClendon is one of 30 inmates in Ohio who were identified to have “legitimate claims of innocence” in the investigation conducted by The Columbus Dispatch together with the Ohio Innocence Project. Of these inmates’ cases, 14 have been approved for DNA testing by the respective presiding judges and county prosecutor’s offices. McClendon’s is the first case to be resolved. Upon receiving the DNA test report that confirmed he was not the source of the crime scene evidence, McClendon said, smiling, “Hello truth.”

Franklin County Judge Charles Schneider’s decision to release McClendon on his own recognizance came after the Ohio Innocence Project lawyers and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien reached agreement on a motion seeking a new trial. With the agreement of the prosecution, McClendon's case was dismissed on August 26 and the conviction was expunged from court records. Accordingly, the prosecutors stipulated to his actual innocence, allowing Mr. McClendon to receive exoneree compensation under Ohio's wrongful conviction compensation law.

In McClendon’s case, DNA Diagnostics Center’s forensic laboratory tested evidence submitted by the prosecutor. After traces of semen were found, a Y-STR DNA test was performed, which generates a DNA profile from the Y chromosome (found only in males). A comparison to the Y-STR profile from McClendon revealed that he could not have been the source of the DNA from the semen stain. After a judge ordered his release on August 11, McClendon walked out of the Franklin County Courthouse a free man.

DNA Diagnostics Center has offered to test the DNA evidence in the Ohio Innocence Project’s post-conviction cases free of charge as a public service. Dr. Richard Lee, founder of DDC states, "This case is a good example of the value of proven, reliable science in the criminal justice system.” He continued by explaining the philosophy at DNA Diagnostics Center, “Our mission is to advance DNA technology to benefit mankind. We're just starting to see a fraction of what DNA testing will eventually be able to do for society."