In 1983, Calvin Lee Scott was convicted of first degree rape and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Twenty years later, Scott walked free after DNA testing proved his innocence.
The victim, a young mother who was sleeping with her four-month-old son beside her, was awakened by a noise and sat up to find a knife at her throat. The attacker demanded that she give him her purse or he would kill her child. When she said she had no money, he told her to remove her panties and proceeded to rape her while covering her face with his hand. The woman was unable to identify the man, but described him as a black man between 5’8” and 5’11”, medium build, and with a mustache.
More than four months after the attack, the police received an anonymous phone call that led them to Scott, who was in a county jail for a larceny conviction. Scott was asked if he would submit samples of head hair, pubic hair, and saliva; and he consented. The samples were tested by a state criminologist who testified that the hairs submitted by Scott were microscopically consistent with those found at the crime scene. Because there is not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair, an analyst’s assertion that hairs are consistent or similar is inherently prejudicial and lacks probative value.
Scott was able eventually to have the vaginal swab taken from the victim subjected to DNA testing. The results not only excluded Scott, but matched another man who was already incarcerated for another rape. The actual perpetrator was never charged due to the statute of limitations. Scott had already finished serving his time for rape but was still incarcerated for an assault while in prison.
After 20 years, Calvin Lee Scott established his innocence and was freed from prison.