August 31, 2023

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah announced today that her Conviction Review Unit and the Innocence Project will be asking the court to vacate the conviction of a South Carolina man who served more than seven years in a New York prison for a 1975 rape in Greenburgh that he did not commit. The CRU’s investigation included new DNA testing that conclusively excluded 72-year-old Leonard Mack as the perpetrator and identified a convicted sex offender, who has now confessed to the rape. This would be the longest wrongful conviction in U.S. history to be overturned by new DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project, the national litigation and criminal justice policy reform organization dedicated to exonerating the wrongfully convicted.

DA Rocah said: “Today we’re asking the courts to find Leonard Mack actually innocent for a rape he never committed; for which he unjustly served more than seven years in prison. We were able to prove Mr. Mack’s innocence, in large part, due to our independent Conviction Review Unit’s commitment and Mr. Mack’s unwavering strength fighting to clear his name for almost 50 years. This exoneration confirms that wrongful convictions are not only harmful to the wrongly convicted but also make us all less safe.”

Susan Friedman, the Innocence Project’s attorney for Mr. Mack said: “Mr. Mack has lived with the stigma of this wrongful conviction for nearly five decades. His courage and determination are why we now have indisputable scientific evidence that proves he is innocent. Mr. Mack's case had many of the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction, including multiple witness misidentifications. We are grateful that the Westchester County District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit investigated Mr. Mack's case and reached similar conclusions.”

The District Attorney’s Office and attorneys representing Mr. Mack from the Innocence Project will appear this morning before New York State Supreme Court Judge Anne E. Minihan at the Westchester County Courthouse to ask that the court overturn the conviction of Mr. Mack who was accused on May 22, 1975 of forcing two high school students at gunpoint into the woods and tying up, gagging and blindfolding them before raping one of the girls twice, and attempting to sexually assault the other.

Hours after the attack, Mr. Mack was arrested by then-Westchester County Parkway Police on the Bronx River Parkway who indicated that Mr. Mack fit a suspect description of a Black man with an earring and wearing a hat. After an investigation conducted by the Parkway Police and the Greenburgh Police Department, Mr. Mack was charged with rape, and other related charges.

Asserting his innocence, and presenting alibi witnesses, Mr. Mack proceeded to trial and a jury found him guilty of Rape in the First Degree and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree. He was sentenced on April 27, 1976, to seven-and-a-half to 15 years in state prison.

While incarcerated, Mr. Mack made multiple challenges to his conviction in the 1980s, which were opposed by the Westchester DA’s Office and denied by the courts.

After the Innocence Project requested that the DA's Office review the claim of actual innocence on behalf of Mr. Mack in August 2022, the CRU examined the initial investigation and prosecution. The investigation found that eyewitness identifications were tainted by problematic and suggestive procedures used by the police.

Upon discovering physical evidence preserved since 1975 by the Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research, the CRU ordered new DNA testing this year. The lab results excluded Mr. Mack’s DNA.

A search in the state and local DNA database returned a match to a Westchester man who was convicted of a June 1975 rape in Queens, just two weeks after the rape in Greenburgh, and a 2004 sex crime in Greenburgh.

When interviewed by a District Attorney’s Office investigator, the man confessed to committing the 1975 Greenburgh rape.

New York's statute of limitations bars the prosecution of this individual for the 1975 crime. However, he is currently being prosecuted for failing to register as a sex offender related to the 2004 sex crime. He remains in custody. The case is being prosecuted by Special Prosecutions Deputy Division Chief Michelle Lopez.

The CRU investigation was conducted by Bureau Chief Anastasia Heeger, Assistant District Attorney Charity Brady and Criminal Investigator James Menton.

The District Attorney thanked Director Lydia de Castro of the Westchester County Department of Laboratories and Research and Detective Daniel O’Malley of the Greenburgh Police Department.