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After DNA Tests Prove His Innocence, Former Marine Wants To Get Life Back On Track

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RALEIGH — For 20 years, a former Camp Lejeune marine said he was an innocent man. Now, the whole world will believe him.

Lesly Jean served almost a decade in prison for rape and assault charges back in 1982. Two DNA tests proved Jean could not be the rapist.

Last Friday, Governor Mike Easley granted Jean a full pardon of innocence, which means the rape charge is officially off his record. Jean says he can finally get his life back on track.

"I have waited so long for this day for everyone to understand and now, I'm innocent and the governor has said so," he says.

Jean's pardon makes him eligible for payments byNorth Carolina's Industrial Commission. His lawyers say they will seek the maximum amount of $150,000.

Since being released from prison in 1991, Jean has been through a lot. He was homeless, depressed and unemployed. He says with his pardon, he can apply for a job without having to explain his time in prison.

The prosecutors and defense attorneys from the Lesly Jean case talked to the media at the Onslow County courthouse. They admitted that they had differing views on how good the evidence was in 1982, but they agreed that Jean was an innocent man.

"I have to say that anyone who does not have compassion for Mr. Lesly Jean is just being very unrealistic," says former detective Delma Collins. "He certainly has suffered. There is no doubt about that."

"If he were to be permitted the maximum, permissible compensation of $150,000, that equates to $43 a day, not even minimum wage," says defense attorney Ernie Wright.

District Attorney Dewey Hudson says he is authorizing every department in his four-county area to review every case, solved and unsolved, to see whether DNA might make a difference.

TheNorth Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyerswill introduce a new bill to the legislature to make DNA testing more available in criminal cases.


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