At about 11 p.m., on July 1, 1992, a black man approached a man and his girlfriend as they sat on some steps on the edge of Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The man was ordered at gunpoint into the water and commanded to throw back his car keys. The robber then forced the woman into her boyfriend’s car and drove off.
The woman reported to police that the robber drove to the back of a supermarket where she was beaten and sodomized. Her attacker then left.
The woman described her attacker as about 19 to 21 years old, 6 feet to 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighing about 180 pounds.
On the day after the crime, the woman reported that a bank book with the name of Darrin Hill was found in her boyfriend’s car.
Police assembled a photographic lineup that included a photo of Hill, a 26-year-old New Orleans resident who had been arrested in the past, but not convicted. Hill was 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds.
On July 17, 1992, the woman identified Hill as her attacker. Hill was arrested on August 23, 1992.
He was indicted on October 1, 1992, on charges of aggravated rape, attempted aggravated crime against nature, kidnapping and armed robbery.
On January 5, 1995, Hill, who had a history of schizophrenia and an IQ between 71 and 84, was found mentally unfit to stand trial and committed to a state mental health facility.
In 1997, Hill was found competent to stand trial and on February 11, 1999, a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity. Hill was then committed to the East Louisiana Health System.
In November, 2010, the sexual assault kit in the case was found at the Orleans Parish Courthouse by staff members of the federal National Institute of Justice-funded Orleans Parish Post-conviction DNA Testing Project.
The case file was retrieved and lawyers at Innocence Project New Orleans were contacted to investigate and determine if the case qualified for DNA testing.
The testing was ordered on January 11, 2012 on the joint motion of the Orleans Parish District Attorney and Innocence Project New Orleans’ lawyers.
The tests identified a single male DNA profile that excluded Hill.
Interviewed by Innocence Project attorney William Aquino, Hill said that at the time of the crime, he was living with his mother and doing work for her landscaping business. He said that two men who knew from playing basketball asked him to take a ride with them.
He got in the car and they drove to a store where they bought him beer and cigarettes and then suggested that he open a checking account.
Hill said they told him they would put their money into his account as well and then they could all go shopping. They drove him to a bank where Hill opened an account and then they drove to a shopping mall where they purchased merchandise with the checks.
Hill said they dropped him off at the park and he went home. He discovered later that he did not have his checkbook. When he learned through news reports that he was a suspect in the attack, his mother took him to the police station.
On April 26, 2012, Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Frank Marullo vacated the finding of not guilty by reason of insanity upon the joint motion of the District Attorney and lawyers for Innocence Project New Orleans. The charges were dismissed and Hill was released.
The DNA was later matched to Derrick Woodberry, who was already imprisoned on another rape conviction. On September 13, 2013, Woodberry was convicted of the rape of which Hill had been exonerated.
A week later, a panel of Louisiana Appellate Court judges ruled that Hill was entitled to state compensation. Under state law, Hill was entitled to as much as $250,000.
– Maurice Possley