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Claude McCollum

Other Michigan Exonerations with Inadequate Legal Defense
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On January 23, 2005, 60-year-old Carolyn Kronenberg, a professor at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan, was found raped and murdered in her classroom.

Two days later, police arrested 26-year-old Claude McCollum, a homeless student who took classes and often slept at the community college where the victim taught.

McCollum, who had significant learning disabilities, was interrogated in detail by the police and agreed to cooperate when the police told him he might be able to help them solve the crime.

During the interrogation, police investigators asked McCollum how, hypothetically, he might have killed the victim. They interpreted McCollum’s responses to these hypothetical questions as a confession and he was charged with rape and murder.

In February 2006, McCollum went to trial in Ingham County Circuit Court. A detective testified that a strand of fiber was found on McCollum’s clothing. An expert testified that the fiber might have come from Kronenberg’s sweater. A forensic scientist testified that the DNA found under the victim’s fingernails did not match McCollum, but was from an unidentified male. However, McCullom's confession convinced jurors of his guilt.

On February 14, 2006, the jury convicted McCollum of rape and murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. 
 
In August 2007, a serial rape-murderer named Matthew Macon, who had been convicted of similar attacks, confessed to killing Kronenberg. This prompted the police and the Ingham County chief prosecutor to reexamine the evidence in the case.

They discovered that a previously unidentified fingerprint on a plastic bag found near the scene of the crime came from Macon. An analysis of a damaged surveillance videotape showed McCollum in a different campus building at the time the murder was committed.

A state police detective had analyzed the surveillance tape before McCollum’s trial, and wrote a report in which he concluded that McCollum could not have committed the crime.  The trial prosecutors claimed that they disclosed the report to McCollum’s defense attorney at trial, but the defense attorney said that he did not see it.

The detective had been questioned briefly about part of the video during the trial, but prosecutors did not ask him about his conclusion that McCollum could not have committed the murder.
 
In September 2007, the Ingham County prosecuting attorney joined McCollum’s lawyer in asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to vacate McCollum’s conviction.  The court granted the joint motion, and in October 2007, McCollum was released and the prosecuting attorney dismissed the charges.

In 2010, McCollum settled a lawsuit against the county for $2 million.  Macon, who is serving multiple life sentences, was not charged with Kronenberg's murder.
 
- Stephanie Denzel

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
State:Michigan
County:Ingham
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Rape
Reported Crime Date:2005
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2007
Sentence:Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:26
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No