Meet the Exonerees

Herman May

State: Kentucky
Date of Birth:
Incident Date: 05/22/1988
Age at Arrest: 17
Conviction Date: 1989
Age When Exonerated: 31
Exonerated Date: 09/18/2002
Time Served: 13
Conviction: Rape
False Confession: No
Implicated by Another Youth: No

Case Details

In the early morning hours of May 22, 1988, a woman was attacked and raped outside her friend’s empty house in Kentucky. A neighbor who heard the victim’s screams called the police, who were unable to catch the real culprit. About two weeks later, the police discovered that seventeen-year-old Herman May had stolen a guitar around the same time the crime occurred. May was young, vulnerable, and didn’t have a positive reputation with the local police given his juvenile record. Since the victim hadn’t positively identified anyone else in a lineup, May became a suspect in the rape. While the victim was on vacation, a detective showed her a photo of May and other suspects, but did not have the victim’s composite of her attacker with him; nevertheless, she positively identified May as the rapist, even though he did not look similar to her composite. A comparison of May’s hair and a hair collected in a rape kit of the victim showed similarities. Given the victim’s positive identification, May’s criminal record, and the hair analysis, May was unduly convicted of rape and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2002, the Kentucky Innocence Project and two law students came to May’s rescue. After DNA testing of the hairs, May was excluded from the scene of the crime, and was rightfully exonerated on September 18, 2002.