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Delaware AG drops case against man imprisoned for 39 years

Delaware Public Media

Elmer Daniels may leave prison this week a free man. He’s spent 39 years in prison.

Daniels, who turns 57 Wednesday, was given a life sentence in 1980 when he was convicted of raping a 15-year-old white girl in Wilmington.

The state has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, saying there was faulty FBI testimony on hair evidence and a mistaken witness identification - but won’t say he’s innocent.

Daniels’ attorney Emeka Igwe said his client, an African American, completely denies the charges.

Igwe argues the case is rife with racial bias. He says the prosecutor and the judge were white. And the jury which convicted him was all white.

“Race played a very big factor in this case," he said. "It’s not something we like to talk about, but the reality is the reality and the truth is the truth.”

The Delaware Attorney General’s Office said there’s not sufficient evidence he was wrongfully convicted.

Igwe strongly disagrees with that interpretation.

“Mr. Daniels was convicted wrongfully and incarcerated wrongfully for 39 years," he said. "And it’s a tragic, sad case of injustice and Mr. Daniels would have died in jail had we not got involved in this case.”

The AG’s office said DNA evidence was destroyed, so it could not be retested. But it notes Daniels has served much more time than he would serve if he were sentenced today.

Igwe said they’ll ask state lawmakers to pass a law to compensate people wrongly convicted and to require the preservation of evidence.

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