The Justice Files: An innocent man or a rapist?

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – After 13 years in prison, Eugene McNair has refused to accept that he is a convicted rapist.

McNair claimed he is innocent and blamed a poor defense by his public attorney in late 2006.

Even at his parole hearings in 2010 and again in 2013, McNair said he refused to accept responsibility.

“I didn’t do it, I did not do this,” McNair told ABC4 News.

He is still serving his five-years-to-life in prison but is serving his time in the Washington County jail.

McNair’s low IQ has handicapped him from the beginning.

“He can’t read or write,” said his sister Debra Brown of Salt Lake City.

His troubles began in May 2006 inside a Salt Lake City apartment.

“He kind of consoled her because she was a friend, gave her a hug and left,” said his current attorney Ann Taliaferro.

But that night, the 44-year-old McNair was arrested for raping a 16-year-old. In a 2006 Salt Lake City police interview, McNair first professed his innocence.

“This girl is lying out of her teeth,” McNair tells the detective interviewing him at police headquarters. “I was out there smoking a cigarette.”

But according to the medical exam of the alleged victim the nurse wrote the alleged victim had a “bluish bruise on her thigh, evidence of trauma to the vaginal area and there appeared to be intercourse and there was bruising near the vagina area.”

“You got her (girl) statement already,” McNair said in his police interview. “So I won’t say no more. What’s the use of me talking. I’m going to jail anyway. I can’t say no more.”

The solicitor general with the state’s attorney general said McNair should not have the sympathy of the public.

“Mr. McNair is a dangerous sexual offender,” said Erin Riley. “He may have some intellectual difficulties but that does not allow him to commit rape.”

McNair was jailed and assigned a public defender for an attorney. That summer, McNair asked his attorney to have a DNA test done.

The court record showed that in October, the prosecutor got the DNA results.

It concluded that the DNA profile of Eugene McNair “does not match samples” taken from the alleged victim.

The DNA profile taken from testing belongs to “a single female source.”

His current attorney said there was a trace of McNair’s DNA on the alleged victim’s neck, but that’s all.

“Not only was Eugene’s DNA not found in her vaginal area but he was specifically excluded from the DNA that was there,” said Ann Taliaferro.

She said the prosecutor turned over the DNA findings to McNair’s public defender John West, but she said West never presented it in court.

“He wanted me to plead guilty and I said for what,” McNair told ABC4. “I go ‘what about my DNA test?” and he told me that ain’t going to help you. ‘You might as well plead guilty.'”

It’s unknown if the public defender saw or ignored the report. West never returned calls from ABC4.

According to court documents filed with Taliaferro’s appeal, West refused to call any witnesses, failed to investigate medical or forensic evidence, failed to investigate McNair’s intellectual deficiencies and “strenuously urged” McNair to plead guilty.

“We have raised a whole slew of things that show why this case is fundamentally unfair,” Taliaferro said.

Despite the lack of a DNA report which all parties were aware of, according to the court record, the judge refused any more delays.

Judge Robert Hilder is told McNair can’t read or write but West said he will walk his client through the process.

Judge Hilder asked McNair several questions. McNair hesitated on one.
Judge: “Knowing the potential penalty … you still want to plead here?”
McNair: “No.”
Judge: “There you go Mr. West. So we’ve had now a change of plan, have we? Is that what you are saying?”

According to the court transcript, West responds that “Eugene just misunderstood” the question. He eventually pleaded guilty.

In January 2007 before McNair was sentenced, West asked for an evaluation. Judge Hilder denied the request. McNair apologized and was sent to prison for five years and up to life.

“Trial counsel abandoned him,” said Taliaferro. “He had nowhere to turn to.”

Riley said inmates aren’t guaranteed attorneys in post-conviction appeals, but they do have access to the law library and contract attorneys are available to help write the legal appeal.

In part two Tuesday, inmates who are often called jailhouse lawyers took up McNair’s case and a second DNA test is also revealed.

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