In the late evening of December 29, 1982, a seventeen year old girl was dragged into the woods and raped at knifepoint. These woods were located near Perry Mitchell's home in Lexington, South Carolina. A week later, Mitchell was arrested on the grounds that he somewhat fit the description the girl had given of her attacker and lived "yards away" from the scene of the crime. Mitchell maintained his innocence and said that he had been visiting an elderly neighbor's home on the night of the crime, when he heard someone scream. Mitchell also said that after visiting with his elderly neighbor, he went to a party next door that was attended by about ten to fifteen people.
The victim, who is white, described her attacker as a black male in his twenties wearing tennis shoes, blue jeans and a dark windbreaker-type jacket or shirt. Mitchell claimed that he was wearing cowboy boots, a peach colored jacket, black pants and a lime-colored jacket on the night in question. The police included Mitchell in a photo line-up, and the victim picked him from the third photo lineup detectives showed her.
The evidence against Mitchell at trial consisted of the victim's identification and erroneous serological testimony. A forensic analyst testified that semen from the crime scene showed blood group markers consistent with Mitchell's blood group. He said 35% of the population shares Mitchell's blood type and could have been the contributor, but then incorrectly stated that "you would probably have to cut that by another 50% because we're dealing with males."
A jury convicted Mitchell on January 23, 1984, of first degree criminal sexual conduct. Mitchell was sentenced to thirty years in prison.
Mitchell's direct appeal was unsuccessful. Twelve years later, in 1996, the Circuit Court granted Mitchell a hearing on his second post-conviction relief application, which claimed that he had a right to have a DNA test. Mitchell's lawyer asked that DNA tests be performed on the victim's underwear to see if the semen sample matched Mitchell's profile. Testing was completed in June 1998 by Cellmark Diagnostics. Mitchell was excluded from being the depositor of semen on the victim's underwear. Following these test results, Circuit Judge James Johnson Jr. granted Mitchell a new trial. The state did not try him again. Mitchell was released in August 4, 1998, after being wrongfully incarcerated for nearly fifteen years.