History is Shadow on Present in Jogger Case
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 on the white investment banker, a crime whose hideous images still haunt New Yorkers.
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 the 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 a 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, who 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 her.
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 her.
"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 d 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 her.
"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," he said.
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 two trials in the case in 1990, ruled the incriminating statements admissible as 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 in 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 friend.
All three defendants were convicted of rape and assault but acquitted of attempted murder and sentenced under juvenile laws to 5 to 10 years in prison.
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 undershorts.
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 confessed.
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 a match.
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 railroaded.
The lawyer, Michael W. Warren, who represents Mr. Richardson, Mr. McCray and Mr. Santana, has asked a court to dismiss the verdicts, and contended in court papers and news briefings that the confessions were scripted by detectives using subtle psychological coercion.