DNA evidence that freed one man in rape case leads to another’s arrest

AP, Nov. 19, 2002

BALTIMORE, Maryland (AP) –Police used DNA evidence to arrest a man on rape charges after DNA testing exonerated another man who served two decades in prison for the crime.

Bernard Webster was convicted of the assault but was released Nov. 7 after DNA tests proved he could not have been the rapist. Darren Powell, 36, was arrested Monday morning as he walked to work, Baltimore County police said.

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Investigators reopened the case and reviewed it with technology that did not exist in 1982, when Webster was convicted. The 20-year-old evidence was submitted to Maryland’s Combined DNA Index System, a statewide database set up in 1994 and maintained by the Maryland State Police.

In Maryland, felons must submit DNA samples through an oral swab. Because Powell had been convicted of a previous felony, his DNA was in the database, which allowed investigators to get an arrest warrant.

Powell faces charges of first- and second-degree rape, first-degree assault, first-degree sex offense and first-degree burglary.

He was being held without bail in the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Webster was 19 when a 47-year-old teacher identified him as the man who broke into her home and raped her in 1982.

Webster’s lawyers said he wasn’t entitled to compensation from the state for his time in prison, and he has no family, job or home.

Two Baltimore-area state senators have pledged that if neither the governor nor the governor-elect takes steps to compensate him, they will push for a bill that pays him for his time behind bars.

On Nov. 7, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl ordered Webster freed, saying, “Justice moves slow at times, and in your case, it moved very, very slow.”

Webster, 40, was the third person in Maryland and the 115th nationwide to have a conviction overturned by DNA evidence, according to the nonprofit Innocence Project in New York.

Webster, who has been living in temporary housing since his release, has been following up on job offers since his exoneration became public, according to the state public defender’s office. He has declined requests for interviews.


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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday November 20, 2002.
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