Larry Gillard

Larry Gillard was convicted of the rape and armed robbery of a 25-year-old woman in her Chicago apartment on May 19, 1981.

Gillard was arrested a week after the crime four blocks from the crime scene by an off-duty police officer who testified that he saw Gillard run from a home that the officer thought might have been burglarized. Due to the proximity of the rape victim’s apartment to the scene of the purported burglary, Gillard was put into a police lineup from which the rape victim identified him as her assailant.

When Gillard, who was not charged with any offense related to his arrest, came to trial for the rape in January 1982, the only evidence purportedly linking him to that crime was the victim’s identification and the testimony of a Chicago Police Crime Laboratory analyst, Christine Kokocinski, who claimed that Gillard was among only 4.4 percent of the African American population who could have been the source of semen recovered from the victim. The jury deliberated only an hour before returning a guilty verdict, and Gillard was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In 2008, after Gillard had exhausted his appeals, the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School obtained DNA testing that exonerated Gillard and identified the actual rapist. On August 27, 2009, Judge Paul Biebel, Jr., presiding judge of the Criminal Division of the Cook County Circuit Court, granted Gillard a certificate of innocence, qualifying him for $170,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction.

— Rob Warden