Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

James O’Donnell

First NameJames
Last NameO’Donnell
Year of Conviction1998
Year of Exoneration2000
State of ConvictionNew York
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape
Death SentenceNo
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeWhite
Type of Innocence Defense
  • Alibi
  • Third Party Guilt
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defendant’s long time girlfriend testified that defendant was asleep at the time the crime occurred. This was corroborated by her son who testified to seeing defendant asleep at this time. ● Defense presented witness who came forward with a suspect that matched the sketch she saw in the newspaper.

Did the defendant testify at trial?No
Types of evidence at trial
  • Eyewitness
  • Forensic Evidence
Type of Forensic Evidence
  • Bite Mark
Types of Flawed Forensics
  • Vague
  • Valid
Brief Quote / Description of Testimony

The odontologist found defendant’s teeth “consistent” with the bite marks.

Identity of eyewitness
  • Cross Racial Identification
  • Victim
Multiple eyewitnesses2
Lineup Procedures
  • Lineup
  • Mug shots
  • Photo array
Suggestive Procedures

Yes ● Victim not told attacker might not be in line-up ● Defendant repeated from photo array to line-up

Quotes from testimony #1

Detective testified: “I stated to her that I wanted her to look at the lineup and let us know if she recognized anyone.” Others in line-up did not resemble initial description (nor did O’Donnell – and O’Donnell’s long hair was pulled back and hidden)

Unreliable Identification?

No ● Discrepancies in description – composite and initial description, of a man with stubble and dark short hair, looked nothing like defendant, who had long red hair and prominent fu-manchu mustache

Quotes from testimony #2

“She indicated to you that the perpetrator of the offense had no mustache; is that correct? A. Yes, it is.” She indicated that the attacker had hair that was “short” and had no facial hair.

Highest level reachedNR

Read more about this exoneration

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