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Thursday, July 5, 2007

The True Rapist Indicted After an Innocent Man Serves Years in Prison

From ohio.com: A convicted rapist was indicted on charges of killing a woman in a separate crime that was initially blamed on another man who later received $1 million from the state in a wrongful incarceration settlement.

Earl Mann, 34, could face the death penalty if convicted in the 1998 strangulation death of Judith Johnson, 58, and the rape and beating of her then-6-year-old granddaughter in Barberton, 40 miles south of Cleveland.

The indictment Friday by a Summit County grand jury comes two years after prosecutors said new DNA evidence linked Mann to the crime scene. His children lived with their mother in a home near Johnson's.

The DNA evidence, taken from a cigarette butt that Mann had discarded at the Mansfield Correctional Institution, was collected by inmate Clarence Elkins, who had been convicted of killing Johnson, his mother-in-law.

Elkins, 44, was exonerated and freed in 2005 after serving nearly seven years of a life sentence. His then-wife raised more than $20,000 for private DNA tests and asked the University of Cincinnati's Ohio Innocence Project to investigate her husband's case.

The state later conducted its own DNA tests, concluding that Elkins could not have committed the crimes and awarded him the settlement.

Elkins said he does not understand why it took prosecutors so long to seek an indictment against Mann when "it didn't take them maybe a couple of hours to come after me."

"I'm angry. At the same time glad they're doing the right thing," he said. Elkins, who was convicted largely on the 6-year-old's testimony that he raped her, an account the girl later recanted, said he favors the death penalty and will attend Mann's trial.

Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh would not discuss evidence in the case. She said the investigation was deliberate and not rushed because Mann was already incarcerated. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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