Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Clark Jerome McMillan

Other Tennessee Exonerations
Clark Jerome McMillan was arrested on October 30, 1979 for the October 26, 1979 rape and robbery with a deadly weapon of a 16-year-old girl. Clark was African American; the victim was white.

In May 1980, he was convicted by a jury of rape and robbery with a deadly weapon. On May 2, 2002, he became the 108th person in the United States to be exonerated due to postconviction DNA testing.
The 16-year-old victim and her boyfriend were abducted from the Overton Park area in Memphis, Tennessee. After having parked near the entrance of the park, they were accosted by a man wielding a knife and forced out of their vehicle. The perpetrator robbed the victim's boyfriend and forced them both into the woods, where he ordered them to disrobe. He ordered the victim's boyfriend to lay face down on the ground and proceeded to rape the victim. She was also cut as she struggled with her assailant. The attacker fled after ordering them to remain on the ground and not to get dressed until he was gone.
The victim and her boyfriend, unable to find their car keys, flagged down a passing car and were driven to her Sunday school teacher's home. The doorman there notified the police, who questioned the victims and took them to a rape crisis center where evidence was collected.
The medical exam corroborated the victim's claim that, prior to the attack, she was a virgin. The crotch of her blue jeans was caked with semen. Examination of the vaginal swabs revealed motile spermatozoa. No testing was performed except for visual inspection and a presumptive screening for seminal fluid, which was positive.
The victim and her boyfriend gave similar descriptions of the perpetrator, but apparently neither mentioned a limp. McMillan had been shot two years earlier, wore a leg brace, and walked with an obvious limp. At trial, however, she added the limp to her description. As for the identification - at the initial photo spread which purportedly included a photo of McMillan, the victim picked no one and the boyfriend selected a filler. At a live line-up, she identified McMillan but the boyfriend again selected a filler. Nevertheless, at trial both identified McMillan.
McMillan claimed that he was at his sister's house with his girlfriend at the time of the crime. Although his sister and girlfriend testified in support of his alibi, McMillan was convicted of rape and robbery with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 119 years in prison.
All of his appeals were denied. McMillan then contacted the Innocence Project in 1996 and his case was accepted a year later. Due to the age of the case and difficulties with prior counsel, students spent years tracking down his files and evidence and negotiating a protocol for testing. Kemper Durand, a Memphis defense attorney, became co-counsel with the Project and set up a procedure with the Shelby County prosecutor's office for handling this case and several others pending in Memphis. Eventually, the original blue jeans were submitted for DNA testing. In April 2002, the tests excluded McMillan was excluded as the source of spermatozoa in the rape kit.
Under a recently enacted post conviction DNA access law, McMillan moved to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment. On May 2, 2002, with the consent of the District Attorney General, the conviction was vacated and the charges were dismissed.
McMillan was held in prison after his exoneration on an unrelated gun possession charge from 1979, for which he was given two years in federal prison. The Bureau of Prisons granted him time served and he was freed on May 15, 2002 after spending more than 22 years in prison.

In 2004, the state Board of Claims awarded McMillan $832,000 in compensation. He died October 1, 2017.
Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, Reproduced with permission.

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 10/5/2017
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1979
Age at the date of reported crime:22
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes