News Americas, BROOKLYN, NY, Thurs. Dec. 21, 2017: Christmas has come early for a Caribbean immigrant who spent 30 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Guyana-born, Mark Denny, now 46, walked out a free man on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, after he was exonerated by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for a brutal rape and robbery rap from three decades ago.
Several of Denny’s family members gathered at the courthouse and expressed relief that he was proven innocent after all these years.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday morning that it had moved to vacate Denny’s conviction and dismiss the indictment after an investigation revealed faulty witness identification.
The Innocence Project had taken the case to the DA’s Conviction Review Unit, which ultimately determined Denny, then 17, was not at the Brooklyn Burger King when the horrific crime was committed 30 years ago.
Mark Denny surrounded by his family moments after his exoneration on Dec. 20. Photo by Sameer Abdel-Khalek/Innocence Pronject.
At the time, Denny was accused with three other defendants of a late-night gunpoint robbery and rape at a Burger King on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Kensington, Brooklyn, NY on Dec. 20, 1987.
The four were accused of forcing their way into the restaurant after closing and holding two employees — an 18-year-old woman and a male — hostage. They ordered the two employees to undress, took $3,000 from a safe and then raped and sodomized the woman in a back room.
The problems in identifying Denny began right away. Detectives showed the victim of the rape a picture of Denny, but she did not identify him immediately. However, two days later, she was able to identify him in a lineup and during the trial, she gave a vague description of him and his actions. Denny was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 19 to 57 years in prison despite proclaiming his innocence.
He continued to maintain his innocence throughout – even through parole hearings.
“I’m overwhelmed thinking of what I’ll do next to get my life back on track,” Denny, who moved to the US as a green card holder as a child, said yesterday after walking out of the courthouse an innocent man.
Mark Denny enjoys his first meal at Dallas BBQ with his legal team and family. Dec. 20. Photo by Sameer Abdel-Khalek/Innocence Project.
Denny also secured another win. While he could have faced deportation back to Guyana under current immigration laws, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement has informed Denny’s lawyers that in light of the fact that all of his criminal convictions have been overturned, ICE will not oppose his request to reopen his removal proceedings so that he can seek full citizenship and remain in the United States with his family, and does not intend to detain or deport him while the federal government is considering his request to restore his status as a lawful permanent resident.
Denny’s release is the first exoneration by the Kings County District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit since Eric Gonzalez – who became Acting District Attorney in 2016 after the death of Ken Thompson – was elected District Attorney in November.
“District Attorney Gonzalez has set the gold standard for reinvestigating past cases,” added Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck. “The conviction review unit has demonstrated an unprecedented willingness to look at flawed convictions, even where DNA evidence is unavailable. The unit understood the dangers of multiple identification procedures and, after obtaining the advice of an expert on memory and identification, recognized that the identification in this case was unreliable. We are grateful that they were persuaded that Mr. Denny is innocent and went above and beyond the call to correct the injustice.”