‘The Innocence Files’: 'Million Dollar Man’ Kenneth Wyniemko's wrongful rape conviction cost him 9 years in jail
A man from Clinton, Michigan, broke into a woman's house while she was sleeping on April 20, 1994. She could not see him because he had his face covered with nylon stockings. He then proceeded to handcuff her, blindfolded her with her underwear, put her face down, and brutally raped her multiple times. He then smoked a cigarette, robbed the house and left.
When the victim alerted authorities, she was asked to describe how he looked. Although his face was covered and she was blindfolded, she said that she saw a few glimpses of the attacker. The man was described as a white male, nearly 6 to 6'2 feet tall, and appeared to be in his 20s. The victim was asked by authorities to assist in creating a composite sketch of the attacker, which she did not believe would be helpful considering she did not have a good look at him.
The sketch was made regardless. After a few months of the incident, Kenneth Wyniemko, who was being held on unrelated misdemeanor charges in July, was told by police that he resembled a composite sketch they had created and was asked to be in a picture lineup. Wyniemko, who was 43-years-old at the time and 5'11, claimed that he was made to stand on a platform to be of a certain height and did not have a mustache while the rest in the lineup did.
The victim identified him as the perpetrator from the lineup.
Authorities searched Wyniemko's house for possible evidence and uncovered latex gloves consistent from the scene of the crime. Wyniemko's former girlfriend also reportedly came forward to tell the police that he had a history of stalking her. Wyniemko was convicted on 15 counts of criminal sexual contact, largely based on witness testimony from the victim and a jail "snitch." The 43-year-old, after a trial, was sentenced to 40 to 60 years in prison.
Wyniemko believes that he was set up by the police because he had once thrown an inebriated officer out of the bowling alley he worked at, the year he was arrested. According to Wyniemko, the officer at the time told him that he was going to call him a 'Million Dollar Man."
"I'm going to call you a Million Dollar Man, because it will take you a million dollars to get out of prison," the officer said, according to Wyniemko.
The 43-year-old, convinced of his innocence, began writing letters to multiple organizations to help him get justice. After various attempts, a reporter Kim Shine from the Detroit Free Press took up his case and began writing about it. That is when The Cooley Innocence Project noted his case and began working with Wyniemko’s legal team. After their investigation, it was revealed that a piece of the victim's clothing was withheld from evidence: a pair of panties.
The detectives reportedly directed it to not be tested for forensic evidence. Other untested biological evidence was also sitting in the locker room, including a cigarette butt the assailant had smoked at the scene of the crime. Wyniemko’s defense then sent the piece of clothing and other evidence for DNA testing.
The defense also deemed lineup in the case unconstitutional. Then-prosecutor Linda Davis was reportedly present with the victim at the time the lineup was conducted and it was revealed the victim, at the first attempt, did not single out anyone from the lineup. Davis then allegedly had a private, unrecorded conversation with the victim, who later identified Wyniemko.
It was also revealed that the victim had said that the composite sketch was only 60 percent accurate.
The DNA test results excluded Wyniemko from the scene of the crime and his conviction was overturned in 2003, after spending nearly nine years in prison. Wyniemko broke into tears after his release and saw his grandchildren for the first time ever. He was given a settlement of $3.7 million by the state.
Netflix's 'The Innocence Files' released on April 15 and shines a light on the untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that nonprofit organizations like the Innocence Project and Cooley Innocence Project have uncovered.