Culture

Central Park Five Co-Defendant Exonerated in Related Robbery Case

Steven Lopez, a lesser-known co-defendant of the Central Park Five, had his associated theft conviction overturned Monday, July 25, The New York Times reviews.

Lopez was 15 when he and the remainder of the Central Park Five had been arrested and charged with raping a white girl jogging via Central Park. While the Central Park Five — all youngsters who had been both Black or Hispanic — had been infamously convicted primarily based on false confessions obtained by police, Lopez struck a cope with prosecutors, avoiding the rape cost, and as an alternative pleading responsible to robbing a male jogger. 

Lopez served over three years in jail and didn’t attraction his conviction. The Central Park Five, in the meantime, had been convicted in separate trials all through 1990 and spent the subsequent 12 years in jail. They had been lastly exonerated in February 2002 after DNA proof indicated that an uncharged suspect, Matias Reyes, had attacked the jogger, Trisha Meili. Reyes, who was serving time for a separate rape and homicide cost, confessed to the assault, and the convictions of the Central Park Five had been overturned (they later received a $41 million settlement towards New York City).

While the story of the Central Park Five has since grow to be one of the well-known and infamous examples of police misconduct and the racist biases of the American prison justice system, Lopez’s place in the broader narrative has at all times been muted. He was not included in the aforementioned settlement, for example, nor did anybody painting him in Ava DuVernay’s current miniseries, When They See Us. It was solely final February that Lopez introduced his case to the eye of the Manhattan district legal professional’s office and requested that his conviction be overturned. 

Terri S. Rosenblatt, who works in the Manhattan DA’s wrongful conviction unit, famous that Lopez’s case is an instance of harmless defendants being pressured into pleading responsible: “We talk about wrongful trial convictions a lot, but there can be guilty pleas that are wrongful too,” she mentioned. “And our understanding now about people who falsely confess translates over to people who will sometimes even falsely admit in court to a crime that they didn’t commit.”

Similar to the remainder of the Central Park Five, Lopez was arrested in April 1989 and stored in a holding cell for almost 20 hours whereas he was questioned about numerous assaults in the park. The then-teenagers who had been questioned by the police have accused the cops of pushing them guilty others for the assaults, and a few mentioned Lopez had attacked each the female and male joggers on the time. However, there was no forensic proof tying Lopez to the assault on the male jogger, nor did the person establish Lopez as one in every of his attackers. Forensic investigators did declare they discovered one in every of Meili’s hairs on Lopez’s clothes, however it was later decided that these authentic hair strand investigations had been unreliable.

Ultimately, a detective wrote a press release for Lopez, which mentioned he was on the scene of the assault on the male jogger; Lopez and his father (who couldn’t converse English) signed the assertion, although Lopez continued to insist he was not concerned in Meili’s rape. Right earlier than his rape trial was set to start, Lopez was supplied a plea deal on first-degree theft prices.

In courtroom Monday, July 25, Lopez was reportedly silent, solely thanking the decide who wished him nicely through the listening to. Lopez’s lawyer, Eric Renfroe, mentioned his shopper was in search of privateness, although through the listening to Renfroe mentioned, “I believe what happened to you was a profound injustice and an American tragedy… It is truly painful to see how this system failed you.”

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