Muncie man spends 25 years in prison; sues city for wrongful conviction

MUNCIE, Ind. -- A Muncie man who says he was wrongfully convicted of rape is now a free man.

After serving 25 years behind bars, William Barnhouse is suing the city.

There are six Muncie police officers named in the lawsuit. The complaint is also against the City of Muncie and employees of the Indiana State Police Crime Lab. It claims Barnhouse was unjustly imprisoned before he was released through DNA evidence.

In 1992, Barnhouse was convicted of rape and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Almost a quarter of a century later, documents show a court granted a request for DNA testing on the victim's jeans and rape kit.

In 2017, the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the charges after the analysis found the sperm on the victim's jeans did not belong to Barnhouse.

The lawsuit said Barnhouse was born with a chromosomal condition that makes him unable to produce sperm.

"He certainly cannot get those 25 years back of his life, but we hope we can achieve to shed a light on what happened," said Heather Lewis Donnell, an attorney for Loevy & Loevy in Chicago representing Barnhouse.

Barnhouse's conviction centered around a crime near a Village Pantry in Muncie, where a man threatened a woman with a knife and raped her.

Barnhouse's attorneys believe an employee of the Indiana State Police Crime Lab falsely claimed hair found on the victim was so sufficiently similar to Mr. Barnhouse's public hair sample that it must be a "match."

"Those kinds of injustice is the kind of cases we seek to redress," she said.

Doug Kouns is a former FBI agent and the founder of Veracity IIR in Carmel. He said advances in DNA testing have greatly expanded since the 1990's, and it is now more likely for investigators to get a positive identification.

"If you did not have enough, you could not do it back in the old days, and now it can be replicated with science," said Kouns. "It takes a much shorter time to get results back. Degraded samples are not necessarily bad."

The lawsuit said Barnhouse never gave up on his innocence, and now his attorneys want to take the city to court.

Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said the case was not dismissed because the state felt he was innocent or wrongfully convicted, but rather, they believe the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

"Additionally, there has never been a  judicial finding that he was wrongfully convicted or that he is innocent. This is simply an allegation he is making," said Hoffman.

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