Exonerated July 11, 2006
James Tillman was convicted by a jury of rape and kidnapping on September 19, 1989. The conviction was based almost entirely upon the eyewitness identification by the victim. In 1988, the 26-year-old victim was attacked while sitting in her car. Her attacker pushed his way into the car then drove to a secluded spot where he raped, beat, and robbed her.
A forensic analyst testified at trial that serological testing of semen on the victim’s dress could have come from Tillman, as well as about 20 percent of the male population. This report, however, failed to disclose that degradation could have lead to a change in the results. A rape kit had been collected at the hospital after the crime, but the samples in the kit were not tested. The victim identified Tillman in a police lineup and again at the time of the trial.
In 2005, more advanced DNA testing was performed on the victim’s pantyhose and on multiple semen stains on the victim’s dress. The results showed that Tillman was excluded from all of the semen samples and all of the samples matched one another, meaning the semen was from a single source. On June 6, 2006, Tillman’s conviction was vacated after the Superior Court granted a petition for a new trial based on DNA evidence. Tillman was released without bail. Further DNA testing was performed on one more stain on the dress, which also originated from the source on the other stains. On July 11, 2006, the charges against Tillman were dropped, and he was exonerated after spending more than 16 years in prison.