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Tiffin University’s Ohio Innocence Project Chapter to Host Robert McClendon

On November 16, 2022, Tiffin University’s undergraduate student chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP-u:TU) will host guest speaker, Robert McClendon at 7 p.m. in the Osceola Theater. This event is free and open to the public.

McClendon spent 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. McClendon will take this opportunity to share his story with the community as well as field questions about his experiences. McClendon was wrongfully charged and convicted of kidnapping and raping his 10-year-old daughter.

The main evidence against McClendon at trial was the testimony of his daughter and the state’s allegation that he failed a polygraph test. When asked to identify her attacker at the hospital, the victim said, “I think it was my dad, but I may be wrong because my eyes were covered a lot.” McClendon was the victim’s biological father, but she had only seen him once in her life before the day of the assault. Defense lawyers presented alibi witnesses who said McClendon was driving around with a friend at the time of the crime.

On August 28, 1991, a Franklin County judge found McClendon guilty of kidnapping and rape, and sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison. He steadfastly maintained his innocence, but the courts denied him the right to a DNA test three different times. The Ohio Innocence Project got involved after working closely with reporters from the Columbus Dispatch in 2007 and 2008 to evaluate cases where the defendant was wrongfully convicted and denied DNA testing. An Ohio lab discovered that although the rape kit from the investigation had been destroyed, the victim’s underwear had been preserved. In April 2008, they conducted testing on DNA obtained from the underwear and found that it did not match the sample taken from McClendon. He was freed on August 12, 2008 after serving close to 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

“We are thrilled to have Robert on our campus and honored that he is willing to share his story with our students and the Tiffin community,” said Dr. Steven Hurwitz, Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice at Tiffin University and the faculty advisor for TU’s undergraduate chapter of the Ohio Innocence Project. “It is important that people hear Robert’s story and learn how wrongful convictions happen.”

The Ohio Innocence Project was founded in 2003. Since its founding, Ohio Innocence Project has freed 36 Ohioans who served over 700 years for crimes they did not commit which makes it one of the top performing members among the international Innocence Network. OIP continues to devote itself to freeing people who are imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. It is the only Ohio-based nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing innocent persons, as well as educating the public on the flaws of our legal system and the societal issues that lead to such injustices. In addition, OIP advocates for legislation that reforms the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions.

OIP-u:TU is an undergraduate-run extracurricular group, which belongs and reports to the greater OIP umbrella organization. Their mission is to further the goals of the collective, as well as provide educational and awareness-based programming about wrongful convictions and the legal system both on campus and locally. They are also affiliated with the Tiffin University School of Criminal Justice and Social Sciences.

Please contact Dr. Steven Hurwitz, program faculty advisor with any questions at shurwitz@tiffin.edu.