An Akron man was freed from a life prison term on rape and murder convictions Thursday, the first Ohio exoneration based on work by the University of Cincinnati-based Ohio Innocence Project, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. After 7½ years behind bars at Mansfield Correctional Institution, Clarence Elkins walked out of his prison cell into the arms of his wife, Melinda.
The UC students not only won Elkins’ freedom, they might have identified the real killer. Guided by several lawyers across the state, University of Cincinnati Law School students David Laing, Un Kyong Ho, Scott Evans and Meghan Anderson spent two years working to free Elkins. Elkins, now 42, was convicted in 1999 of rape, murder and attempted aggravated murder. The Ohio Innocence Project took up the case in January 2004 after Elkins’ wife contacted them. The students didn’t let anything deter them, even when Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh resisted their first attempts to show that Elkins was innocent. Thursday, with two sets of DNA evidence in hand, Walsh was finally convinced. She got a court order vacating the convictions.