Another NY ‘Central Park Jogger’ Conviction Vacated for ‘Lack of Evidence’

PC: www.cnn.com

By The Vanguard Staff

NEW YORK, NY –Steven Lopez, who was charged and convicted in the 1989 Central Park jogger case, had his conviction vacated and indictment dismissed Monday here, announced Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., and Eric Renfroe of the Law Office of Eric Shapiro Renfroe.

DA Bragg said the motion was made on grounds of lack of evidence following a reinvestigation conducted by the Office’s Post-Conviction Justice Unit. A copy of the motion can be found here.

Lopez was indicted for rape and attempted murder of a female jogger and robbery of a male jogger, but, on the eve of his trial, took a plea deal to admit only to the robbery of the male jogger. He was sentenced to 1 1/2-to-4 1/2 years in prison.

Lopez was the sixth person charged with the rape and attempted murder of the woman known as the “Central Park jogger,” said the DA Office, which admits it has moved to vacate convictions of the five other individuals charged – known as the “Central Park Five” or the “Exonerated Five” –in 2002 after DNA evidence and a confession by a different individual revealed their innocence.

“The People move to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment of Steven Lopez (who) was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure,” said the DA in court.

Bragg added, “The People’s reinvestigation was completed by our Post-Conviction Justice Unit in collaboration with Mr. Lopez and his counsel,” noting his office “concluded that the hair sample comparisons used at the time of the incident were unreliable. Therefore, there remains no physical evidence connecting Mr. Lopez to the charged conduct.”

Bragg noted that “statements by the other young men at the time linking Mr. Lopez to the crime have since been recanted. Statements by some of these witnesses previously led to other vacated convictions arising from the same indictment.”

“All of the factors taken together – as set forth in our motion papers – show what the people believe are unique circumstances, combined with Mr. Lopez’s youth, made his plea involuntary – and therefore unconstitutional. A conviction based on an unconstitutional plea cannot stand,” the district attorney added.

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