Ulysses Charles

17 years

Exonerated on May 17, 2001


In December 1980, an African American man raped and robbed three women after breaking into an apartment in Allston, MA. In 1984, Ulysses Charles was charged and convicted of the rapes after being identified in a photo array by two of the victims and in a line-up by the third victim.

Charles repeatedly refused to take a reduced sentence in return for a confession, always maintaining his innocence. There were many problems with the DNA evidence that was taken from the crime scene, including sperm samples not being preserved. Semen stains from a robe in the apartment were not identified as so during trial, instead an analyst falsely stated that the rapist did not ejaculate. Charles was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Further evidence came to light that a robe worn by one of the victims did have seminal fluid on it, contrary to what was stated during the trial. In 1999, DNA testing of this material conclusively excluded Charles as the rapist.

In May 2001, the court vacated Charles’ conviction. Citing the number of intervening years and lack of evidence, the Commonwealth decided not to retry the case. Following a federal civil rights suit against the City of Boston, Charles was awarded $3.5 million, after having been awarded $500,000 under the state’s wrongful compensation law.