Leonard Mack, a 72-year-old Black man, has been exonerated after spending nearly 47 years in prison for a rape conviction in Greenburgh, New York. DNA testing proved that Mack was not the perpetrator, and the true offender, a registered sex offender, confessed to the crime. Mack’s case adds to the growing number of wrongful convictions faced by Black men in the United States.
According to the Innocence Project, a total of 74 individuals have been exonerated in 2023, with 45 of them being Black. Mistaken witness identification has been identified as the leading cause of wrongful convictions, accounting for 21 of the exonerations this year.
Mack’s case came under scrutiny when the Innocence Project requested a review of his claim of innocence. Their investigation revealed problematic eyewitness identifications at the time, tainted by improper procedures conducted by the local police department.
Barbara O’Brien, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law and editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, has previously highlighted the fallibility of eyewitness identification, particularly in cross-racial cases. Mack’s case further underscores the need for improved procedures and safeguards to prevent wrongful convictions.