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Date: 11-20-2023

Case Style:

State of Delaware v. Elmer Daniels

Case Number:


Court: Court of Common Pleas, New Castle County, Delaware

Plaintiff's Attorney: New Castle County Delaware District Attorney's Office

Defendant's Attorney: Public Defender's Office

Description: On January 15, 1980, a 15-year-old girl, G.S., reported she had been raped along the railroad tracks in Wilmington, Delaware. The girl was in the 9th Grade and was attending Thomas McKean High School, which was out of session in honor of Martin Luther King's birthday.

G.S. with K.C., T.M., and S.H. went to a house party in Wilmington. G.S. drank a small amount of wine and let the party along with K.C. to look for a phone she could use to call her mother to get permission to eat dinner at T.M.'s house. K.C. was intoxicated. They found a phone at a Getty gas station and G.S. called her mother at about 4:45 p.m.

After talking to her mother G.S. and K.C. walked up onto the overpass by the railroad track. G.S. and K.C. sat down and started talking while they waited for T.M.

At about 5:10 P.M. an unarmed black man approached them and introduced himself as "Jake Johnson," who said he was a security guard for steel company.

According to G.S. the "colored" man then grabbed her by her throat with his right hand, threw her back onto the tracks, began chocking her, started undressing her with his left and hand, and told her "he wanted to get off on her. He then forced her to have sex with her. K.C. did not try to help G.S. ward off the attacker.

After G.S. attacker finished sexually assaulting her, she pulled up her pants and walked back to the party and called the police. Wilmington Police Department Detectives Charles W. Esham and Gilbert Howell responded to the call.

GS described the attacker as being five feet eight inches to six feet tall and as weighting about one hundred sixty-five pounds. She said that he had a short-cut afro, short sideburns, and wore a free army coat with tan dress pants. She also said that his fingernails were chewed down including the sides of his fingers.

G.S. was taken to the Delaware Division of the Wilington Medical Center where her clothing was seized except for her underwear, which was taken later. Powder was also put on her neck to obtain the attacker's fingerprints.

Later in the evening, G.S. was given a book containing 200 to 300 photographs but she was unable to pick a photograph of her attacker from the book.

K.C. was interviewed four times and gave conflicting reports of his interaction with G.S., including sexual activity with her. Wilmington police officers threatened to charge K.C. third-degree rape. Daniels told officers that he believed he knew the attacker from Middle School and his name was Elmer. This information was incorrect because Mr. Daniels was not attending Bayard Middle School in 1978 with K.C.

Detectives tracked down the homeroom teacher, who said K.C. had been in the same class as a boy named Elmer Daniels. The detectives than showed G.S. a group of photographs, including a photograph of Elmer Daniels. G.S. identified Mr. Daniels as her attacker.

Daniels, age 18, was arrested and charged with first-degree rape.

A search of Daniels' home resulted in the seizure of a green field jacket that belong to Mr. Daniels' brother and a pair of tan pants.

Mr. Daniels told the arresting officers that he was playing basketball at a community center at the time of the sexual assault reported by G.S.

None of the fingerprints collected by the investigating officers belonged to Mr. Daniels.

Daniels' lawyer requested all discovery in the possession of the Wilmington Police Department including copies of all written reports of any scientific analyses conduction in connect with the case. The prosecutor acknowledged that his office had a duty to produce any and all Brady materials.

Malone testified that he hair samples examined by him were a "double match" and confirmed that Daniels was the rapist.

Malone did not examine hair from K.C. who had, in fact, had sex with G.S. on the date of the crime.

On January 17, 1980, Elmer Daniels was arrested and charged with raping the girl.

The trial of Elmer Daniels began on May 19, 1980.

The State relied on the testimony of G.S. and F.B.I. Agent Michael Melone.

No forensic evidence linked Daniels to the crime other than expert testimony by FBI Special Agent Michael Melone relating to hair samples from G.S. underwear and hair samples taken from Mr. Daniels. Opinions based on microscopic hair samples bordered on Voodoo. Moreover Agent Malone was lying. His testimony was introduced to convince the jury that he was guilty.

Mr. Daniels testified on his own behalf.

Defense counsel call two of Daniels' friends and a supervisor at the Latin American Community Center who confirmed that Daniels was playing basketball at the center at the center in the late afternoon and early evening on the day that G.S. was raped.

Outcome: Daniels was convicted by an all-white jury on May 22, 1980, and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was based on the coerced identification of Daniels by G.S. and the false testimony by Malone.

Daniels was sentenced to life in prison on July 11, 1980.

According the the Wilmington Police Department, any evidence held by the WPD was destroyed in 1983, just three years after his conviction.

His appeals were unsuccessful. He was paroled in 2015 as a registered sex offender, but then returned to prison a year later for violating the conditions of his parole. One violation was for failure to hold a job; he was fired from a restaurant after a police officer told the management that he would tell patrons that a sex offender worked there. The second violation was for his failure to complete a required sex-offender therapy program. Daniels refused to admit his guilt, which was necessary for completion.

​In 2013, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Innocence Project, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers began a review of FBI analysts’ testimony and reports on hair comparisons. In 2015, the group said the review had found that analysts, including Malone, had provided erroneous testimony or reports in more than 90 percent of cases it had studied.

The U.S. DOJ concluded that Melone's testimony against Daniels was not an anomaly.

Daniels’s attorney, Emeka Igwe, contacted the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017, asking for a review of his client’s case. The agency then sent a letter to the Delaware attorney general in early 2018 that stated Malone’s testimony had “exceeded the limits of science.”

The hair analysis and Malone’s testimony notwithstanding, there was other no other evidence of guilt, including the victim’s testimony and eyewitness identification.

Mr. Daniels never wavered in protesting his innocence. He filed six postconviction motions, all of which were denied.

Daniels then sought relief through the Delaware Department of Justice’s Actual Innocence Program, which rejected his claim of innocence. It noted that the hair analysis and Malone’s testimony notwithstanding, there was other evidence of guilt, including the victim’s testimony and eyewitness identification.

As a compromise, the state offered to support an application for a pardon or a commutation. Daniels declined both offers.

The U.S. Justice Department conceded in 2018 that Melone's opinion testimony exceeded the limits of science and were invalid. The FBI finger print report, which was not provided the Daniels' lawyer was produced and was exculpatory. In order words the prosecutor knew that Daniels' was not the perpetrator.

Daniels was release on parole on August 26, 2015, but could not maintain employment and he did not complete a sex officer program. He got a job but a representative of the Delaware State Police called his boss and informed him that Daniels was a convicted sex offender. Because he of his failure to comply with the terms and conditions of his parole, he was sent back to prison on July 6, 2016.

On November 30, 218, based on Special Agent Melone's misrepresentations as to the hair evidence and the discovery that Daniels never attended school with K.D., the State requested the dismissal of Mr. Daniel's indictment. The court also entered a post-trial nolle prosequi in the case.

Daniels was released from prison on December 13, 2018 at age 58. He had been incarcerated for 38 years.

In December 2020, Daniels filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware against the U.S. Government, Malone, and the city of Wilmington, seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction.

He claimed that he was wrongfully indicted and convicted of a crime he did not commit because of wrongful conduct on the part of Special Agent Melone and the misconduct of Wilmington Police Detectives Phillip A. Saggione, III, and others. He also claimed that he was wrongfully convicted as a direct result of the failure of the Wilmington Police Department to establish, enforce and/or prodice training on policies, practices and protocols concerning the preservation of exculpatory evidence.

Daniels claimed that he suffered immense physical and emotional pain throughout his imprisonment.

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