In January 2003, a woman claimed that she was sexually assaulted by a stranger near the railroad tracks in Oneida, New York. She told police that her attacker was in his mid-40s, bearded and 5’11”. Police developed a composite sketch, and showed it to the staff at the drug and alcohol center that the victim had attended. The staff identified Dan Lackey, who had attended the center as well, and knew the victim. Police took Lackey in for questioning even though he was younger, taller, and never had facial hair. Lackey, who has a learning disability and is borderline intellectually disabled, told police he was drinking with friends that night. After police threatened him and told him he could leave if he confessed, he told them he had committed the crime. At trial, evidence showed that Lackey had actually been at his job at Walmart that evening, 15 to 20 minutes away from where the rape occurred, and had just punched out for a break at the time the victim said she was raped. Saliva had been found on the woman’s jacket, where she said the rapist had bitten her. Testing matched the saliva to the victim, but Lackey’s attorney failed to bring this out at trial. In May 2004, a jury convicted Lackey of rape and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
After his conviction, Lackey’s father hired private investigators, and followed leads himself. In 2006, Lackey’s father tracked down the victim’s ex-boyfriend, who told him that the victim had falsely reported a rape in November 2004, and had served time for filing the false report. Lackey presented the new evidence to the court. In July 2007, the trial court vacated Lackey’s conviction, and he was released. The district attorney appealed the decision, but lost, and finally dismissed the charges in July 2008.
- Stephanie Denzel