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Michael White

Other New York Exonerees Who Were Convicted of a Rape that Didn't Happen
On August 30, 2004, a 22-year-old woman reported to police in Gowanda, New York that 35-year-old Michael White raped her at her apartment.

Police interviewed White and he denied raping the woman. White said he was with his girlfriend, the complainant’s sister, on the night of the alleged attack.

White also said he had been impotent for years because of injuries sustained in a traffic accident and he asked that DNA testing be performed on semen that was recovered from the complainant. The New York State crime laboratory reported that the results were inconclusive because there was too little semen to develop a DNA profile.

On October 20, 2004, White was charged with rape and sexual abuse. He remained free on bond and went to trial in February 2006 in Erie County Supreme Court. He chose to be tried by a judge without a jury. The complainant testified that White attacked her in her bed at 5:30 a.m.

White’s girlfriend— the complainant’s sister—testified that she and White had moved out of the apartment where the rape allegedly occurred and that she was with White that night in their new residence. She also testified that White had been impotent for several years. The complainant’s mother testified that the complainant was at the mother’s residence rather than at the complainant’s home at the time of the alleged assault.

On February 17, 2006, the judge convicted White of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

White’s conviction was upheld on appeal and he had served his sentence and was released. Following his release he retained attorney Brian Shiffrin who filed a motion for new DNA testing on the ground that DNA identification technology had become more sophisticated and discerning since tests were performed in 2004.

A second round of DNA testing was conducted, and a male DNA profile was obtained from the evidence. The profile excluded White and matched to the DNA of the complainant’s boyfriend. Nonetheless, the Erie County District Attorney declined to dismiss the charges based on the DNA test results.

Attorney Shiffrin filed a motion for a new trial. The prosecution opposed the motion, arguing that White might have worn a condom or might not have ejaculated.

However, Shiffrin noted that at White’s trial, the prosecutor argued to the judge that “the presence of semen corroborated the complainant’s testimony that (White) raped her.”

In March 2014, Erie County Supreme Court Judge Sheila DiTullio granted the motion for a new trial and vacated White’s convictions. The prosecution appealed and in February 2015, the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division upheld DiTullio’s ruling.

The appeals court cited the prosecution’s argument that the presence of semen corroborated the complainant’s testimony and wrote, “We now know, based on the more sophisticated DNA testing not previously available, that the presence of semen…does not in fact corroborate her testimony.”

On May 7, 2015, with the consent of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, Judge DiTullio dismissed the charges.
 
In August 2016, White filed a claim in the New York Court of Claims.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/20/2015
Last Updated: 11/7/2016
State:New York
County:Erie
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2004
Convicted:2006
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:5 years
Race:Native American
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:35
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*