Judge vacates 1974 rape conviction after Massachusetts fails to preserve evidence, victim raises ‘serious doubts’ about her identification

A Massachusetts judge vacated Tyrone Clark’s 1974 rape conviction after the commonwealth failed to preserve evidence and the victim in the case, unsolicited, raised serious doubts about her identification of the defendant, according to a news release from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office.

Clark, who was released from prison Wednesday, is “absolutely thrilled” about the decision, his attorney Jeffrey Harris told CNN.

“He’s been arguing for 50 years that he got an unfair trial — the court agreed with him. This is in no small part due to an amazing person who came forward and said she might have gotten the wrong guy in 1973,” Harris said. “We really appreciate the work the DA’s office did, the consideration of Judge Roach, and the superior court. We’re really happy with this outcome.”

District Attorney Rachael Rollins said the case came to her office’s attention after the victim raised doubts about identifying Clark.

“When we began looking further into the case, we learned that nearly half a century ago, the Commonwealth lost or destroyed evidence that had the potential to be exculpatory,” Rollins said. “Both the defendant and this administration have been denied the opportunity to perform modern forensic testing due to the failure of previous administrations to maintain that DNA evidence. The Commonwealth should never benefit from our failures and wrongdoings.”

Clark is going to have Thanksgiving with his only living relative, his brother, Harris said.

“He’s going to be out and around family — that’s not nothing,” his attorney added.

Clark’s other convictions related to the 1973 incident, including unarmed robbery and kidnapping, were not impacted as those convictions were based on other evidence and testimony, according to the release.

“Prosecutors are, first and foremost, ministers of justice,” Rollins said in the release. “We must never prioritize finality over justice. If we discover that the Commonwealth did not meet the high standard required of us, we must always act in the interests of justice. That is exactly what we did here.”

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