News 12.17.13

New Jersey Man Exonerated After Serving 19 Years for a Murder that New DNA Evidence Shows He Didn’t Commit


Somerset County Prosecutor Dismisses Indictment Against Gerard Richardson


 

Contacts: Paul Cates,

pcates@innocenceproject.org


Alana Massie,

amassie@innocencerproject.org


 

(SOMERVILLE, NJ – December 17, 2013) — Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano filed a motion today dismissing the indictment against Gerard Richardson, fully exonerating him of a murder for which he served 19 years. Richardson’s exoneration comes nearly two months after Somerset County Superior Court Judge Julie M. Marino overturned the conviction and ordered his release from prison.

 

“Gerard Richardson has spent nearly two decades working to prove his innocence and waiting for the system to acknowledge the injustice done to him. Today’s hearing – when the State officially ended the case – marks a monumental moment.” said Vanessa Potkin, a Senior Staff Attorney with the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “Now Mr. Richardson will be able to celebrate the holidays with his family as a free man.”

 

Richardson was convicted of the February 1994 murder of Monica Reyes based largely on the testimony of a forensic dentist who claimed that a bite mark on the victim’s body matched to Richardson. The only other evidence presented against Richardson at trial was the testimony of Reyes’ boyfriend who claimed that Richardson threatened to kill her because she owed him money for selling drugs. Richardson became a suspect after law enforcement learned that Reyes, who was addicted to heroin, had sold drugs for him on a few occasions to support her habit and owed him approximately $90. Although the boyfriend had spoken to police several times previously, he only recalled the threat after police told him about the bite mark match.

 

Richardson always maintained his innocence of the murder. He was eventually granted the right to submit a swab recovered from the bite mark to DNA testing, but earlier rounds of testing were inconclusive. His attorneys eventually sought help from the Innocence Project, which took over his representation. The remaining evidence was submitted once again for testing, and the lab was able to detect a complete male DNA profile from the evidence that excluded Richardson.

 

Based on this new evidence, the Innocence Project filed a motion seeking to overturn Richardson’s conviction. After Somerset County Prosecutor Soriano conceded that the new evidence entitled him to a new trial, Judge Marino granted Richardson’s motion on October 28 and set bail at $5,000, which he posted the following day. Today the indictment was dismissed.

 

Because of FBI regulations, officials in New Jersey have been barred from entering the DNA profile from the bite mark into the CODIS DNA database, which contains over ten million profiles of convicted offenders and could identify the person responsible for the 1994 murder. The true perpetrators have been identified in nearly half of the 311 DNA exonerations.

 

“It’s very disturbing that what is essentially a bureaucratic rule is preventing the state from identifying the real perpetrator of this crime who could be at large committing other crimes,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. “We intend to take this up with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. For the sake of the many victims in this case, we urge state law makers to amend the law to end unnecessary hurdles to accessing the database.”

 

Mr. Richardson was in court with his brother and sister today when the indictment was officially dismissed. He is represented by Potkin and Scheck of the Innocence Project.

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