Local News

Family Raises Questions After Raleigh Man Wrongfully Accused Of Assault

Posted March 23, 2006

— Jamaal McLeod spent 14 nights in jail for a crime police now say he didn't commit.

"I couldn't eat for crying and thinking my child was up in jail for no reason," said McLeod's grandmother, Nancy Archibale.

She said she knew he was innocent.

"He told us he did not do it. 'Grandma, I did not do it,' and he told the detective that, too," Archibale said.

On Tuesday, McLeod was released from jail, and 36-year-old Reginald McNeill was charged in the case.

"I started screaming, 'Lord, thank you, thank you, Jesus,'" Archibale said.

The victim of the attack, Jean Burke, told police after she saw McLeod at his first court appearance on March 8 that she wasn't sure they had the right man. McLeod is two inches shorter and 20 pounds heavier than McNeill and does not wear glasses.

"He looked shorter and stockier," Burke said. "He had some similarities in the face, but I still wasn't totally sure."

But police say that on March 7 when they arrested McLeod, they had more than enough evidence to do so.

"There is no doubt sufficient probable cause existed to make an arrest on that day," said Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue. "In fact, given the probable cause, we would have been remiss had we not made an arrest."

Burke says the investigator kept at it, walked the greenway himself and eventually brought a picture of McNeill to her. She identified him immediately -- this time without hesitation.

"It was to his credit that he continued to look and finally found the right person," Burke said.

But Archibale wonders at what cost to her grandson.

"We've got to do something about this," she said. "Stop them from arresting the wrong person. We've got to do something."

"An apology would not be in order. Nothing improper was done," Sughrue said.

McLeod was charged and pleaded guilty to another attack on the same greenway last year. He was on probation when he was arrested in this case. His family is now questioning that arrest, as well.

Police, however, say they do not take into account prior arrests when they determine probable cause in a new case.

According to the National Institute of Justice, about 75,000 people each year are charged with a crime based solely on eyewitness identification. With more and more studies showing how stress can impact memory, the Department of Justice issued new guidelines in hope of reducing the number of mistaken identifications.

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