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Former Marine Hopes DNA Science Will Clear His Name

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FAYETTEVILLE — Lesly Jean spent almost a decade in jail for a rape that happened 19 years ago. He has always said he did not do it, and now he hopes science will clear his name for good.

In 1982, Jean was in the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune. While getting a bite to eat, Jacksonville police arrested him, saying he fit the description of a rape suspect. He was tried and convicted of first-degree rape.

"I didn't know how to tell my family I've been charged with rape," he says. "I stayed scared for nine and a half years, every day worried that somebody would do something to me."

Jean faced a sentence of two consecutive life terms and was taken to Central Prison.

"Prison was very hard to deal with because I was innocent, but my innocence kept me alive," he says.

After years of research, Jean's lawyers discovered a flaw in his case, which led to the judge dropping all charges against him. But to many people, he was still a rapist up until two weeks ago, when Rebecca Britton, Jean's lawyer, received the results from his DNA test.

"They said it was conclusive, not even close," she says. "It's one of those moments when practicing law when you realize this is what it's all about."

Jean will never be able to get back those years he lost in jail, but he knows he can change his future.

"I'm pushing for clemency because I want my name clean," he says.

Jean and his lawyers plan to ask Gov. Mike Easley for a full pardon 11 a.m. Friday. They also hope to change his dishonorable discharge he received from the Marine Corps. Jean says he is not bitter about his experience, but he wants to put it all behind him.

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Shani Blount, Reporter
David McCorkle, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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