Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced that the decades-old rape convictions of two men were vacated today. The investigation, which also involved the Innocence Project and Office of the Appellate Defender, revealed that the DNA found on the victim did not match either man, and that she recanted her story.
The NY Times reported, "Investigators had no physical evidence connecting the men to the crime or the crime scenes," yet both men, VanDyke Perry and Gregory Counts, were convicted.
The DA's office described the past allegations and justice proceedings:
On January 17, 1991, a complainant flagged down a police patrol car to report being raped and sodomized at knifepoint by three men in Central Park. According to the complainant’s account and later trial testimony, the alleged perpetrators included VanDyke Perry and Gregory Counts, both of whom were known to the complainant. The complainant alleged that the men sexually assaulted her while demanding the whereabouts of her boyfriend, who owed them money. On March 16, 1992, Perry and Counts were convicted by a jury of all of the charges in the indictment against them: Rape and Sodomy in the First Degree, Kidnapping in the Second Degree, and Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree. Perry was sentenced to 7-to-14 years in state prison; Counts was sentenced to 8-to-24 years in state prison. Perry was released from prison on November 9, 2001; Counts was released on August 14, 2017.
However, the Innocence Project and OAD won a motion to retest the DNA samples (the technology wasn't available at the time) in 2014 and it turned out the DNA belonged to a man who died in 2011. When asked about the deceased man, the complainant said he didn't attack her, and the DA's office, Innocence Project, and OAD continued their investigation.
This year, she recanted her story and said her boyfriend pressured her to accuse Counts and Perry, the DA's office said.
We’re in court. The motions to vacate and dismiss have been granted.
Mr. Perry and Mr. Counts have been exonerated. pic.twitter.com/12o4yWzifR
— Cyrus Vance, Jr. (@ManhattanDA) May 7, 2018
Vance said, "It is every prosecutor’s nightmare to convict an innocent person. This case is a tragedy for all involved - two New Yorkers were wrongfully deprived of their liberty during the prime of their lives for a crime they did not commit. This time can never be returned to them, but with today’s exoneration, we hope we can begin the process of unburdening them and giving them a chance at a brighter, successful future."
"We are grateful to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for working collaboratively with us and moving quickly to restore justice to Mr. Counts and Mr. Perry," Barry Scheck, of the Innocence Project, said. This case underscores why it’s critical that prosecutor conviction integrity units work collaboratively with defense attorneys, and we are hopeful that the Conviction Integrity Unit will make this level of collaboration a standard part of its process moving forward."
Last week, Tom Robbins published a piece that was critical of Vance's reputation as a reformer and his Conviction Integrity Program. Although it was the first such unit to examine wrongful convictions in NY State when it was created in 2010, "ever since, he has refused to disclose whether the unit has actually exonerated anyone," Robbins reported.
"During our interview, however, Vance reverses himself and provides me with a list of seven names. 'I was told you’d asked for this, and I said we should provide it,' he tells me. He had previously kept the cases secret, he explained, because 'generally speaking, there’s a view that these people want the cases behind them.'"