Brooklyn man freed after 30 years in prison for wrongful rape conviction
When Mark Denny was arrested for raping a woman with three others in a Kensington Burger King, he was 17 years old. After serving three decades in prison for the crime, new evidence showed he was never actually there that night, which led to his exoneration at Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Denny, 46, was convicted in a 1989 trial for robbery and rape based on identification from the victim, who did not originally pick him out in a photo array, but did from a lineup two days later.
There was no fingerprint or DNA evidence from Denny in the case.
The Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit found a past system with little knowledge of victim memory regarding traumatic events was culpable for Denny’s 30 years behind bars.
“Prison was a hell of an experience for me,” Denny said, wearing a blue suit jacket in court. “Sex offense is the worst crime ever … so I had to carry the stigma of being ostracized, being criticized, condemned; it was … it was … it was torture to my mind. I even came to the point where I almost committed suicide.”
Denny, however, always held on to his innocence at parole hearings, likely delaying his chances for freedom until he was finally granted parole in Oct. 2017, prosecutors said.
“I missed out on a lot of opportunities, a lot of my dreams was left unfulfilled, you know, I mean my life was really ruined,” Denny said. “This moment right here has revived me.”
He walked into Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic’s courtroom all smiles, stopping to wave at his family members as a crowd surrounded him in the aisle.
The Guyana-native’s troubles began on Dec. 20, 1987, when three men busted into the Fort Hamilton Parkway Burger King around 2 a.m. as the last two employees were closing. With at least one gun, they stole $3,000 before ordering an 18-year-old victim and a male coworker to undress, according to a DA statement.
They then repeatedly raped and sodomized the woman.
After giving 10 statements to law enforcement officials, the victim recalled between three to four attackers, while her co-worker recalled three.
Denny came into play when he was arrested the following month for gun possession in a car with three others who were wanted for robbing a Manhattan Burger King.
Despite trial testimony from his grandmother that he was with her in Queens during the rape, Denny was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 19 to 57 years in prison.
But Denny said in court that he wishes he was there that night, to help.
“I wish I could have been the hero of the victim that day, unfortunately I couldn’t,” he said.
His case was picked up roughly eight years ago by the Innocence Project, who’s attorneys stood by him at the exoneration.
Attorney Nina Morrison said the original case’s shallow evidence attributed to the process taking years to resolve, even with the actual perpetrators denying Denny’s involvement.
Defendant, Eddie Veira pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to seven to 21 years in prison, while a second defendant, Raphael James was sentenced to 16 to 48 years after being convicted.
The third man’s case was dismissed when the victim was found emotionally unable to testify, the DA statement showed.
This is the 24th exoneration for Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit that was put in place by the late Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. There are about 100 cases pending review currently.
When Denny was asked what his next move would be, he was quick to say he’ll be getting a decent meal with his family.
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