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Leonard Craine

Other Nevada Exonerations
In March 1990, 38-year-old Leonard Craine was arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada on charges of raping his 10-year-old niece on three occasions in 1989 while he was living with the girl and her parents.

Craine went to trial in Clark County District Court in September 1990. The girl testified that on three occasions, Craine had raped her in her bedroom. A physician testified that there was physical evidence that the girl had been raped.

Craine testified in his own defense and denied any sexual contact with the girl. He told the jury that the accusation had been made after he came into the bedroom of the girl’s stepfather, Willie Tullis, and suspected that Tullis was molesting the girl.

On September 9, 1990, the jury convicted Craine of three counts of rape and he was sentenced to life in prison.

His appeals were denied and although Craine became eligible to seek parole, he refused to do so because it required him to admit to the crime. Upon entry to prison, Craine had been tested and was negative for all sexually transmitted diseases.

Meanwhile, the girl’s mother, who was Craine’s sister, died in 1992 of complications after she contracted the AIDS virus. At that point, the victim continued living with Tullis. In 1994, the victim went to the Clark County Health Department for an AIDS test. The counselor, Lionel Starkes, who also was an Episcopal priest, informed the victim that she had tested positive for the AIDS virus and she also had genital warts.

Starkes was familiar with the family—he had been counselor to Willie Tullis years earlier when Tullis was diagnosed first diagnosed with AIDS. Starkes knew that Tullis also had genital warts and became suspicious that Tullis had infected the victim. The victim, however, denied any contact with Tullis.

In 1994, Tullis died of AIDs and the victim, then 15 years old, moved in with Tullis’s sister, Jackie, and Jackie’s husband, Ernest. Ultimately, they also died of AIDS as well.

In 1998, after all her family in Las Vegas had died, the victim told Starkes that in fact she had been raped by Tullis, not Craine, and that Tullis had forced her to implicate Craine because he feared that Craine was going to report him to police after walking in on Tullis and the victim engaged in sexual activity.

Craine, represented by federal public defenders Franny Forsman and John Lambrose, persuaded the Nevada Supreme Court to order a hearing on a motion for a new trial.

The victim testified and admitted that she had falsely implicated Craine because she was afraid that if she told the truth, her mother would try to kill Tullis. She also testified that after she learned she had tested positive, she confronted Tullis, who was near death, and “cussed him out” for passing the virus to her. Tullis’s sister, Jackie, heard the victim’s cursing, she said.

“She asked me who really did it and why the situation was not the truth and why I didn’t tell anybody sooner and that if her own brother was doing it, she’d rather see him in prison than someone who didn’t do it,” the victim testified. However, nothing was done.

The victim said she also told her cousin, who lived in Florida, the truth during a conversation, but that the cousin did not tell anyone about it.

Starkes testified that after he first learned that the victim had tested positive for the AIDs virus and had genital warts, he confronted the victim’s family members and was told to stay away from the family. Starkes said the victim finally came back to him and revealed the truth after the last of the family members was dead.

On March 1, 2002, Clark County District Court Judge Sally Loehrer declared Craine “factually innocent.” Loehrer vacated Craine’s conviction and Craine was released that day.

On April 29, 2002, the prosecution dismissed the case. The victim died of complications due to the AIDS virus in April 2006.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/7/2015
State:Nevada
County:Clark
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:37
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No