by Robert D. Mcfadden, The New York Times
On July 13, 1990, an expert testified in a Manhattan court that DNA
analysis of semen found in the victim in the Central Park jogger case was
not traceable to any of the youths charged with her gang rape and attempted
murder. "That means there was another rapist who is still at large," the
expert said later.
In the context of a racially charged case that evoked citywide outrage
over bands of marauding violent teenagers, the statements seemed not very
important. Prosecutors had confessions from all five black and Hispanic
defendants, who were ultimately convicted of joining in a vicious attack
the white investment banker, a crime whose hideous images still haunt New
The notion of another rapist perhaps even another scenario
was all but forgotten. But now, more than a decade after the notorious case
seemed closed, startling new developments have prompted defense lawyers to
raise questions not only about the convictions but also about what happened
in Central Park on the night of April 19, 1989.
Another man who raped the jogger has come forward, and proof that he did
it has been established. He says he acted alone, a claim that if true would
seem to exonerate the five convicted in the case.
But the man, a murderer-rapist serving life in prison, could be lying;
or, even if he is not, it might have happened that the others came along
after, before or during his attack, investigators say. Much hinges on
whether any connections can be found between the man and the convicted
youths, and on the validity of the original evidence, including confessions
that were the heart of the prosecution's case.
The confessions whose graphic detail seem to argue against the
lone attacker theory were given by Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray,
Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, all 14 to 16 years old at
time, who were among 30 youths rounded up in the park after a rampage by
roving bands of youths who terrorized, robbed and attacked nine people.
At a station house, the five were repeatedly read their rights. While
video camera rolled, each was asked if he wanted a lawyer, and was told that
if he did, the questioning would stop and a lawyer would be provided free.
Each declined, and agreed to make a statement. (A sixth youth arrested with
the five, Steven Lopez, who was 15, refused to make a statement and was
never prosecuted in the jogger attack.)
The written and videotaped statements were made in the presence of the
suspects' parents or other adult relatives who were called to the station
house. Each youth not only placed himself at the scene of the attack, but
gave harrowing details about catching the jogger as she ran along the 102nd
Street Transverse, striking her with rocks and a length of pipe, punching
and kicking her and taking part in a sexual gang attack. Several admitted
holding the woman down while others raped her.
None of the youths admitted raping the victim, except for Mr. McCray,
first said in a written statement that he had raped her, but in a videotaped
statement said he had just simulated sex. The statements gave several
versions of what happened.
Mr. Santana admitted groping the victim. Others said he punched her.
Mr. Richardson said the victim had scratched him. Others said he had
raped her and struck her with a rock.
Mr. Wise admitted only that he held the woman down while others raped
her, at one point calling the attack "my first rape." Others said he raped
Mr. Salaam, in a written confession that he never signed, admitted
striking the woman twice with a pipe and groping her. Others said he raped
"We hid in the trees, and we saw a female jogger coming," Mr. Salaam was
quoted as saying. "Kevin ran out and punched her." Mr. Salaam's statement
said he struck her with the pipe as she struggled to escape, and "she went
own." It added: "She was still struggling so I hit her again."
Mr. McCray, in one of the most vivid and detailed statements, recalled
how the jogger had been repeatedly punched, kicked, struck with a pipe and
raped. He admitted grabbing and kicking the woman. Others said he raped
"We charged her," he said without emotion on a videotape that showed his
parents beside him. "And we got her on the ground. Everybody started hitting
her and stuff, and she's on the ground, and everybody stomping and
everything. And she got hit. I grabbed one arm, this other kid grabbed one
arm, and we grabbed her legs and stuff. And then we like took our turns
getting on her."
Elizabeth Lederer, the prosecutor in charge of the case, asked Mr.
McCray: "And did you hit her?"
"Yes," Mr. McCray said. "Kicked her."
"O.K., where did you kick her?"
"I don't know. I just kicked her."
"And who else kicked her?"
"Um, Kevin, Steve, all of us," Mr. McCray replied. In response to another
question, he said: "She wasn't screaming. She was hurt though."
"How many times was she hit with the pipe?"
"Twice in the ribs, and on her head," Mr. McCray said.
"Did someone take her clothes off?"
"Who took her clothes off?"
"All of us."
At that point, Mr. McCray demonstrated how he held the woman down,
saying: "I had her just like this."
"And she was trying to pull away?"
"Uh huh," he said in agreement.
"Did somebody have sex with her?"
"Did a lot of people have sex with her?"
Mr. McCray said he exposed himself and climbed on top of the victim and
rubbed against her, but he denied raping her. "I didn't do nothing to her,"
Ms. Lederer continued: "After all that was done, somebody still hit her
on the head?"
"Yeah," Mr. McCray responded.
"She wasn't moving any more?"
"No. I don't think so. We all left."
The statements were considered crucial to the prosecution because the
battered 28-year-old jogger, after lying in a coma for 12 days, had awakened
with no memory of what happened and could provide no identifications or
other details. Moreover, no witnesses to the attack were ever found.
The suspects all repudiated the confessions later, but in a pivotal
victory for the prosecution, Justice Thomas B. Galligan, who presided at
trials in the case in 1990, ruled the incriminating statements admissible
evidence, rejecting defense lawyers' contentions that they had been obtained
by detectives with "subtle pressures."
In the first trial, of Mr. Salaam, Mr. McCray and Mr. Santana, a police
detective, Thomas W. McKenna, acknowledged tricking Mr. Salaam into
confessing. He said Mr. Salaam first denied being in the park, but changed
his story after the detective said falsely that his fingerprints were found
on the victim's pants. Forensic experts testified that scientific evidence
involving blood, semen, hair and DNA analysis had failed to uncover any
links to the defendants, and that only soil samples recovered from the
defendants' clothing "could have originated" at the secluded path where the
attack took place.
Only Mr. Salaam took the stand. He emphatically denied taking any part
the attack, insisted he had been in the park alone and said he had no idea
that groups of teenagers were out to rob and beat people. He admitted that
he was carrying a 12-inch pipe in the park, but said it belonged to a
All three defendants were convicted of rape and assault but acquitted
attempted murder and sentenced under juvenile laws to 5 to 10 years in
Three months later, Mr. Richardson and Mr. Wise were tried, and the
evidence went beyond confessions, with particularly strong forensic elements
against Mr. Richardson. The prosecution said a strand of the victim's pubic
hair had been found on his shirt and one from her head on his
New evidence based on more sophisticated DNA analyses has cast doubt on
these contentions, suggesting that the hair, and blood found on a stone at
the scene, were not the victim's.
After 12 days of hard deliberations, the jury found Mr. Richardson guilty
of attempted murder and rape, and convicted Mr. Wise of lesser charges of
sexual abuse and assault.
Some jurors said afterward that they had been persuaded by the forensic
evidence against Mr. Richardson and believed Mr. Wise had been pressured
into making a videotaped statement. They also noted that Mr. Wise had showed
remorse while Mr. Richardson had not. Mr. Richardson was sentenced as a
juvenile to 5 to 10 years, while Mr. Wise was given 5 to 15 as an adult.
"They convicted themselves with their own statements," Mr. Richardson's
lawyer, Howard Diller, said. "We could not overcome them."
A month later, Mr. Lopez, who had been arrested with the five and
described in their statements and by prosecutors as the most brutal of the
jogger's assailants, was allowed to plead guilty to robbing a man in the
park that night. Prosecutors said they had no witnesses or other evidence
against him in the jogger case, and that unlike the others he had not
In their statements, none of the convicted youths mentioned the name
Matias Reyes, investigators said. Months after the jogger attack, Mr. Reyes
was arrested in the rape and murder of a pregnant Manhattan woman, and in
1991 he was convicted and sentenced to 33 and 1/3 years to life in prison.
He was sent to the Clinton Correctional Facility upstate.
Last January, saying he had found God and felt compelled to confess, Mr.
Reyes claimed that he alone had raped the jogger. Investigators, aware that
semen on the jogger had never been traced, reopened the case and compared
Mr. Reyes's DNA with that of the semen found on the jogger's sock. It was
It is thus certain that Mr. Reyes, 31, raped the jogger, an investigator
disclosed on Thursday. And Mr. Reyes's claim that he acted alone has been
seized upon by lawyers for the convicted youths all of whom have
served their sentences to insist that their clients were
The lawyer, Michael W. Warren, who represents Mr. Richardson, Mr. McCray
and Mr. Santana, has asked a court to dismiss the verdicts, and contended
court papers and news briefings that the confessions were scripted by
detectives using subtle psychological coercion.