Terry Leon Chalmers (White Plains, New York)
Factual background.On August 18, 1986, a woman was raped, and Terry Chalmers was arrested for the crime.
He was convicted by a Westchester County jury on June 9, 1987, of rape, sodomy, robbery, and two counts of grand larceny. The court sentenced Chalmers to 12 to 24 years in prison.
Prosecutor’s evidence at trial. The prosecution based its case against Chalmers on several points:
• The victim identified Chalmers from a police photo array.
• The victim identified Chalmers in two separate police lineups and in the
• Chalmer’s alibi was uncorroborated.
Postconviction challenges. Chalmers filed an appeal claiming that the police lineup was improperly conducted. The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court ruled on July 18, 1990, that the lineup was properly conducted, and even if it were not, the victim’s in-court identification was sufficient. The court affirmed Chalmers’ conviction (559 N.Y.S.2d 27).
Chalmers applied to the Innocence Project to assist him in obtaining postconviction relief. Project lawyers secured the physical evidence and forwarded it to Forensic Science Associates (FSA) for DNA testing.
DNA results. FSA tested samples of blood from the victim and Chalmers as well as from the vaginal and cervical swabs from the original rape kit. The first report from FSA, on July 8, 1994, showed the results from tests of the victim’s blood and the two swabs. The second report, dated July 26, 1994, stated that Chalmers could be eliminated as the source of the semen on the two swabs on the basis of differences in three polymarker genes (see appendix for results).
Conclusion. Chalmers’ conviction was vacated and charges were dismissed on January 31, 1995. The related larceny charges were dismissed in April 1995. Chalmers served 8 years of his sentence.
This case profile is excerpted from Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial, a 1996 research report by the U.S. Department of Justice.