Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Herman Atkins

First NameHerman
Last NameAtkins
Year of Conviction1988
Year of Exoneration2000
State of ConvictionCalifornia
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape
Death SentenceNo
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeBlack
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Alibi
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s wife testified in support of alibi.

Did the defendant testify at trial?Yes
Types of evidence at trial
  • Eyewitness
  • Forensic Evidence
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Hair
  • Serology
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Invalid
Reason why invalid(1) Masking; destruction of evidence
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

The victim and Atkins were both A secretors, PGM 2+1+, and the vaginal swab exhibited type A, PGM 2+1+. The analyst testified that “the activity that I detected could have come from the victim herself, or it could have come from a combination of individuals with those blood types.” The analyst then, however, testified that the combination of people who are A secretors and are PGM type 2+1+ “comes out to about 6.1 percent of the general [white] population” and about 4.4 percent of black people. See Part II.A.1 for an extended discussion of this case.

Identity of eyewitness
  • Cross Racial Identification
  • Victim
Multiple eyewitnesses3
Lineup Procedures
  • Composite drawing
  • Photo array
  • Showup
Suggestive Procedures

Yes ● Show-up – wanted poster with defendant’s photo shown to victim and eyewitness, repeated in photo array, and then in-court i.d. with one victim

Unreliable Identification?

Yes ● Initially uncertain -victim, when shown his photo in wanted poster, was not “100% sure” ● Discrepancy – victim described attacker as skinny and bony, which he was not, with additional discrepancies as to hair length, facial hair, skin color, and shoe size (she said he had huge size 13 feet – he has size 10 ½); another eyewitness described attacker as having a lot of gums showing, which he did not have

Quotes from testimony #2

One described him as a “lighter shade” and “tall and thin” with short hair “close to the scalp” and said his shoe size “was a 13. I know it was a very large size because we didn’t carry very many of the larger sizes.”

Highest level reachedNR

Read more about this exoneration