James Calvin Tillman
James Calvin Tillman is a man who was convicted of rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

, and served 16.5 years in prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

 before being exonerated by DNA testing on July 11, 2006. Tillman, of East Hartford Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, was convicted of kidnapping
In criminal law, kidnapping is the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment, a confinement without legal authority...

 in the first degree, sexual assault
Sexual assault
Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

 in the first degree, robbery
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

 and assault
In law, assault is a crime causing a victim to fear violence. The term is often confused with battery, which involves physical contact. The specific meaning of assault varies between countries, but can refer to an act that causes another to apprehend immediate and personal violence, or in the more...

 in the third degree in 1989, and freed in 2007.

Alleged Crime

The charges resulted from an attack on a white woman in Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford, Connecticut
Hartford is the capital of the U.S. state of Connecticut. The seat of Hartford County until Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, it is the second most populous city on New England's largest river, the Connecticut River. As of the 2010 Census, Hartford's population was 124,775, making...

 that occurred on January 22, 1988. The victim entered her car in an outdoor parking lot at approximately 12:45 A.M. after leaving a bar. Her attacker opened the driver’s side door of her car and attempted to enter. When she resisted he punched her in the face repeatedly. The attacker then raped her and then ran off with her purse and jewelry.

Judicial Appeal

Tillman appealed the conviction in the Supreme Court of Connecticut in 1991 (220 Conn. 487, 600 A.2d 738). The Supreme Court upheld the conviction finding that the jury array was not unconstitutionally assembled, alleged errors in jury instruction did not warrant a new trial
A trial is, in the most general sense, a test, usually a test to see whether something does or does not meet a given standard.It may refer to:*Trial , the presentation of information in a formal setting, usually a court...

 and certain field notes were not improperly excluded from evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...


Tillman argued that the jury selection
Jury selection
Jury selection are many methods used to choose the people who will serve on a trial jury. The jury pool is first selected from among the community using a reasonably random method. The prospective jurors are then questioned in court by the judge and/or attorneys...

 was improper because court clerks had excused a number of potential
*In linguistics, the potential mood*The mathematical study of potentials is known as potential theory; it is the study of harmonic functions on manifolds...

 jurors due to financial hardship. He claimed that the minority candidates were more likely to face this hardship and that this contributed to the fact that there were no African American males on his jury. The court noted that in a murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 trial that drew from the same array there were three black persons chosen to serve.

Tillman also raised several issues regarding instructions to the jury. When considering the victims testimony
In law and in religion, testimony is a solemn attestation as to the truth of a matter. All testimonies should be well thought out and truthful. It was the custom in Ancient Rome for the men to place their right hand on a Bible when taking an oath...

 he had requested that the jury be told that they "may consider...whether the witness was physically impaired or under stress when observing the perpetrator." The jury might have found the victim to have been impaired because she had been drinking and because she had a large cut over her eye that required seven stitches and eventually closed the eye completely. The court instead instructed the jury that it could assess the victims "ability to observe facts correctly...degree of stress...and opportunity to observe the person." In addition he challenged the court's decision not to limit his own contradictory statement to a police detective. The detective testified that he asked Tillman how he got some cuts and bruises on the major knuckles of his hands. The defendant originally said that he was not sure but later said that he did not get them from "punching no girl". The Detective had not told Tillman that the victim had been punched; however he had shown him a picture of the girl after her attack from which he could reasonably deduce that fact. Tillman was not allowed to raise this point on appeal.

The final argument in Tillman’s appeal was that the court had improperly excluded a notebook containing field notes from a police department social worker. The notes did not pass proper evidentiary requirements
Evidence (law)
The law of evidence encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence can be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision and, sometimes, the weight that may be given to that evidence...

. Within the notes was a statement from the lead Detective on the case indicating that fingerprints not matching Tillman's were found on the driver's side door of the vehicle where the perpetrator had entered. The finding was reported in court as being fingerprints on the passenger side door.

Verdict Upheld

Tillman's verdict
In law, a verdict is the formal finding of fact made by a jury on matters or questions submitted to the jury by a judge. The term, from the Latin veredictum, literally means "to say the truth" and is derived from Middle English verdit, from Anglo-Norman: a compound of ver and dit In law, a verdict...

 was affirmed
Affirmed was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who was the eleventh and most recent winner of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing...

 in 1991 and again in 1999 when he claimed ineffective assistance of counsel before the Appellate Court
Appellate court
An appellate court, commonly called an appeals court or court of appeals or appeal court , is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal...

 of Connecticut (54 Conn.App. 749, 738 A.2d 208). The main holding in that case was that counsel did not have to press every conceivable argument during a case but should focus on a few strong arguments.


In 2007 DNA testing organized by the Innocence Project
Innocence Project
An Innocence Project is one of a number of non-profit legal organizations in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand dedicated to proving the innocence of wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, and to reforming the criminal justice systems to...

 was performed on semen found on the victim's pantyhose, and found that not only did it not match Tillman's, but that there were as many as five different strains of it, leading to his exoneration
Exoneration occurs when a person who has been convicted of a crime is later proved to have been innocent of that crime. Attempts to exonerate convicts are particularly controversial in death penalty cases, especially where new evidence is put forth after the execution has taken place.The term...

 and release 18 years into the 45 year sentence. This fits a pattern in which over 60 percent of those exonerated by the Innocent Project have been black men convicted of raping white women.


James Tillman has been serving as vice president for ministry for the Hopewell Baptist Church since his release. The Governor of Connecticut offered him $500,000 in compensation for his wrongful incarceration. Several members of the state legislature have introduced a bill to provide Tillman with total compensation
In law, damages is an award, typically of money, to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury; grammatically, it is a singular noun, not plural.- Compensatory damages :...

of $5,000,000 for the 16.5 years that he wrongfully spent in jail.

On May 16, 2007 the Connecticut legislature unanimously voted to present Tillman with $5 million to assist him in living comfortably following his wrongful imprisonment. The legislature stated that they were touched by his attitude following his release.
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