D.A. BRAGG MOVES TO VACATE STEVEN LOPEZ’S CONVICTION IN CENTRAL PARK JOGGER CASE
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., together with Eric Renfroe of the Law Office of Eric Shapiro Renfroe, today moved to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment of Steven Lopez, who was charged in the 1989 Central Park jogger case. Lopez was indicted for rape and attempted murder of a female jogger and robbery of a male jogger, among other charges. On the eve of his trial, Lopez was offered a plea deal where he would avoid trial if he solely pleaded guilty to the robbery of the male jogger. He was ultimately sentenced to 1 1/2-to-4 1/2 years in prison.
Today, D.A. Bragg moved to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment on the 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.
Steven Lopez was the sixth person originally charged with the rape and attempted murder of the woman known as the “Central Park jogger.” The Office moved to vacate the convictions of the five previous 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.
D.A. Bragg stated the following in court as he filed the motion, which Chief Administrative Judge Ellen Biben granted:
“Good afternoon, Your Honor. Alvin Bragg for the People. The People move to vacate the conviction and dismiss the indictment of Steven Lopez.
“Mr. Lopez was charged and pleaded guilty in the face of false statements, unreliable forensic analysis and immense external pressure.
“The People’s reinvestigation was completed by our Post-Conviction Justice Unit in collaboration with Mr. Lopez and his counsel.
“Your Honor has our written motion. I would respectfully highlight here two key issues. First, the People 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.
“Second, the 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.
“Accordingly, the People of the State of New York, together with Mr. Lopez – through his counsel Mr. Renfroe – jointly move to vacate this conviction and to dismiss indictment number 4762/1989 against him.
“Thank you, Your Honor.”