In January 2003, Michael Mercer regained his freedom after DNA testing excluded him as the perpetrator of the May 1991 rape of a 17-year-old girl in New York City. Mercer had been sentenced to 20-41 years in prison.
The victim was accosted in an elevator, forced to the roof, robbed, and raped. Two months later, she spotted Mercer in the building as he was going to visit a friend and she screamed for his capture. He was arrested and charged based exclusively on the victim's identification. In his first trial, the jury could not reach a verdict. In the retrial, where the victim was resolute about her identification, Mercer was convicted.
Mercer's conviction was upheld when he appealed in 1995. In 1996, his request for DNA testing was denied based on lack of merit.
His chance to test the evidence was not realized until March of 2000, when the city started retesting rape kits and comparing results with the State DNA database. Finally, in January 2003, DNA testing of biological material from the victim not only excluded Mercer from the rape, but matched Arthur Brown, a man serving a life sentence for gunpoint robberies and rapes. The victim, then in her late 20s, was shown a photo lineup containing photos of both Mercer and Brown. She identified Brown as the attacker. Brown could not be charged, however, because the stature of limitations had expired.