Around 6:00 a.m. on October 3, 1992, Anita Hill was walking to a bus stop on the south side of Chicago when a man appeared, holding a gun to her side. He led her to a nearby abandoned building and forced her to engage in oral and vaginal sex at gun point. After the attack, Hill’s assailant robbed her before escaping through a window.
Hill returned home after the attack and took a bath. She did not report the attack to the police for over three hours. The police told her that she should not have bathed and took her to the hospital where evidence was collected and placed in a rape kit. Among the pieces of evidence contained in the rape kit was a vaginal swab.
Months later, in April 1993, Hill was watching television and saw a composite sketch of an area rapist that looked like the man who attacked her. She contacted the police, who brought her in to view a lineup. Right before the lineup, Hill walked past Marlon Pendleton in the police station wearing handcuffs. She saw him again in the lineup and positively identified him as her attacker and Pendleton was charged with the crime.
Prior to his trial, on November 12, 1993, Pendleton’s attorney filed a motion to have the vaginal swab released for DNA testing. Two years later, on October 12, 1995, Pamela Fish, Supervising Criminalist for the Forensic Biology Unit of the Chicago Police Department, concluded that there was not enough semen material on the vaginal swab to conduct a conclusive test.
On December 28, 1995, during the first day of his bench trial, Pendleton’s attorney requested that an independent lab conduct more tests on the vaginal swab. The court denied his request saying, “The crime lab didn’t say that there was a match, they didn’t say there was not. They said there is not sufficient material to do that. We’re not going to spend a lot of time checking other places.”
After his conviction, Pendleton was sentenced on February 29, 1996, to 20 years in prison. He received consecutive terms of 10 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault and 10 years for armed robbery. The Appellate Court upheld Pendleton’s conviction on October 31, 1997.
Pendleton’s attorneys filed two motions to have additional DNA testing done on the vaginal swab, and both motions were denied. The second motion was denied in August 2001 based on the assumption that the vaginal swab no longer existed. That assumption was proved false when the swab was discovered in the custody of the Chicago Police Department.
On December 19, 2005, with the help of counsel from Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, a third motion was filed requesting that the vaginal swab be released for DNA testing based on the advances in the scientific technology over the previous 10 years. The court ordered that the vaginal swab be released for Y-chromosome Short Tandem Repeats (STR) testing. On November 22, 2006, Pendleton was excluded as the source of the sperm found on the vaginal swab. He was released from prison on November 30.
On December 8, 2006, the District Attorney dropped all charges against Pendleton. He was given a gubernatorial pardon based on innocence and received an Illinois Court of Claims award of $170,000.
In 2008, he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend and in 2011 he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 17 years in prison. Previously, he had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Chicago. In 2016, the city agreed to settle his federal lawsuit for $625,000.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions