Flashpoint Extra: Man set free after nearly 40 years in jail for rape he didn't commit

December 18, 2018 - 4:00 am
(L) Terrance Jones, (C) Elmer Daniels and (R) Emeke Igwe

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A Wilmington man who spent nearly 40 years behind bars for rape that he did not commit is now free and will address the press later today. A Delaware Court dismissed his indictment after overwhelming evidence proved that he was not the culprit.

"Mr. Daniels is a poster child of what's wrong with the criminal justice system,” said Emeka Igwe, a Philadelphia-area attorney.  He represents 58-year-old Elmer Daniels who was convicted of raping a 15-year-old white girl, in 1980.

Daniels, who is African-American, was sentenced to life in prison, despite questionable evidence of his identity. 

"You hear cases all the time where people commit rape and they get two years, five years -- but in the case of Mr. Daniels he gets life in prison," Igwe said. "The question is, why?"

The victim in the case told authorities she left a party with a 15-year-old white male friend, and that the two went to an area near railroad tracks.

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The young man claims the two had sex, then a black male accosted them, and he left the victim to get help. It was during that time, she claims she was raped.  

Igwe says it was the victim’s 15-year-old male companion that identified Daniels, only after changing his story several times and being charged with a crime. The victim suffered no visible physical injuries.

“Elmer Daniels was railroaded,” Igwe said, noting that race relations in Delaware were very strained in 1980. “The victim in the case was a 15-year-old white female, the state's key witness who lied multiple times was a 15-year-old white male, prosecuted by a white prosecutor, given a life sentence by a white judge and convicted by an all-white jury."

Igwe met Daniels two and a half years ago, after speaking at an expungement clinic, while Daniels was on parole.

A few weeks later, Daniels ended up back in prison because he did not have a job, as required by his parole.

Igwe would go on to hire Terrance Jones, a private investigator, and the duo worked Daniels’ case pro bono.

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They would uncover evidence that showed there was expert witness testimony, from the FBI, that went beyond the science -- concerning the match of alleged pubic hairs found near the victim. Secondly, the key witness identified Daniels as an 8th grade classmate, yet school records showed that the two were never in the same class. Lastly, all evidence of the alleged rape had been destroyed. 

The duo convinced prosecutors to file a motion, dismissing the indictment, and a Delaware court granted the motion. Daniels became a free man on December 13.

"Seeing him actually released was the most incredible and surreal feeling,” Igwe said.

The Delaware Attorney General's Office agreed with the outcome of the case.  In a motion, the agency noted that even if Daniels committed the crime, he served 24 more years than someone who would have been convicted of the same crime today.​  

Daniels is scheduled to hold a press conference in Philadelphia Tuesday to demand change.

Igwe says his firm will work to get Delaware, and other authorities, to compensate Daniels for his wrongful conviction. ​

(L) Emeke Igwe, (C) Elmer Daniels (R) Terrance Jones
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio