Judge grants more time to review 1989 N.Y. rape case

5 have served sentences

DNA links another man

October 22, 2002|By Karen Freifeld | Karen Freifeld,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

NEW YORK - A Manhattan judge yesterday gave prosecutors until Dec. 5 to declare whether they believe the convictions of five young men in a 1989 Central Park jogger attack should be overturned.

State Supreme Court Justice Charles Tejada said he was granting the Manhattan district attorney's request for more time to reinvestigate the rape and beating of a 28-year-old investment banker.

"What?" one woman shouted from the spectators' gallery in a courtroom overflowing with the men's relatives, protesters and the media.

Assistant District Attorney Peter Casolaro told Tejada that there was an "enormous amount of work" involved in reinvestigating the case, including going through 15,000 pages of transcripts. He said prosecutors also have to track down witnesses from 1989 and follow up new leads from Matias Reyes, a serial rapist whose confession to the attack threw the original convictions into question.

Reyes' admission - confirmed by DNA evidence - has raised the possibility that the five young men convicted in the racially charged case are innocent, despite four having made videotaped statements incriminating themselves. The five men have served their sentences.

Reyes, 31, who is serving 33 1/3 years to life for four other rapes and a murder, revealed his role in the attack to the Department of Correction in January. The DNA match was made May 8.

Much of the physical evidence has been retested, though there are still "some tests that are outstanding," Casolaro said. "We are confident that we will be finished by Dec. 5."

Defense attorney Michael Warren - who represents Raymond Santana, 27; Kevin Richardson, 27; and Antron McCray, 28 - argued that further investigation is unnecessary because two pieces of physical evidence used to link the five to the attack have been discredited.

The standard for overturning the verdict had already been met, Warren said, also citing Reyes' admission and the DNA evidence linking him. If the new evidence existed at the time of the trials, it would likely have changed the outcomes, he said.

"The fact that they have to interview witnesses is immaterial," Warren said, adding that the possibility that Reyes attacked another woman two days before the jogger is "inconsequential" and the additional testing is "irrelevant here."

Attorney Myron Beldock, who represents 28-year-old Yusef Salaam, said prosecutors "are too concerned with protecting their own integrity."

Karen Freifeld is a reporter for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing Co. newspaper.

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