New York City Cases that Were Closed When Evidence Could Not Be Located at NYPD’s Pearson Place Warehouse
In New York City, 50% of cases the Innocence Project closed in the last 10 years were closed because of reports that evidence was lost or destroyed (according to a preliminary study of Innocence Project cases from 1996 to 2006) at Pearson Place Warehouse, which stores evidence for all crimes in the five boroughs of New York City.
Several of these closed cases involve Sergeant Patrick McGuire, who notified the Innocence Project in writing that evidence in the cases did not exist at Pearson Place Warehouse – just as he did in Alan Newton’s case before the evidence was finally located at the facility, eventually leading to his exoneration.
Following are details on six of the Innocence Project’s closed cases in New York City, including three where Sgt. McGuire claimed in writing that evidence no longer exists. (Names of clients and victims in these cases have been omitted to protect their privacy.) These are among the cases for which the Innocence Project is now asking NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to conduct new evidence searches at Pearson Place Warehouse.
John Doe #1 (Bronx)
In 1989, Doe was convicted of raping and robbing a woman in the Bronx in 1987. The perpetrator grabbed the victim from behind while she was walking home from the bus stop, dragged her into a nearby apartment building, and raped her on the rooftop. An ambulance then took her to a hospital where a rape kit was collected. The victim was allowed to go to the bathroom and clean herself before the rape kit was taken. Doe was convicted, based largely on the victim’s identification of him.
The Innocence Project took the case and spent nearly four years trying to locate the rape kit and the victim’s clothing to determine whether DNA testing could prove Doe’s innocence. Bronx Assistant District Attorney Eliza Koenderman worked with the Innocence Project to try to locate the evidence. She requested the evidence from every agency that might have it, and secured documentation from all of the agencies claiming that they did not have custody of the evidence. The case was closed in 2005 due to lack of evidence for DNA testing.
John Doe #2 (New York)
In 1985, Doe was convicted of rape and robbery. He was incarcerated for 14 years, and is currently serving the remainder of his sentence on parole.
The case against Doe was based primarily on the victim’s identification of him. During the trial, the prosecution also submitted testimony that biological evidence was identified in the rape kit taken from the victim immediately following the attack. The Police Laboratory Serology Section, however, did not test the samples to determine the blood type (DNA testing was not available at the time).
The Innocence Project took Doe’s case in 1995. As a result of the Innocence Project’s litigation, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office conducted a search for biological evidence in the case. The DA’s office worked directly with officials at several NYPD units involved in the case – including the serologist from Doe’s trial, the lab that examined hair evidence for the trial, and the evidence division that is responsible for receiving and returning all evidence examined in the NYPD lab – and each of them formally claimed that they no longer had the evidence from the case.
The Innocence Project ultimately closed the case after pursuing the evidence for eight years.
John Doe #3 (Queens)
In 1987, a woman was assaulted on the Long Island Railroad as she was returning to her home from Manhattan. The victim was raped in the train’s bathroom and was unable to see her assailant because the lights in the bathroom were not working. Prior to the assault, the victim had interacted with Doe because he was the train’s conductor.
The victim’s sister picked her up at the train station and took her to the police station. The victim then went to the hospital, where a rape kit was collected. Two days after the assault, the victim identified Doe as the man who attacked her on the train. Although she signed a complaint identifying Doe as her assailant, in court the victim conceded that she could not have seen her attacker, and that she had misunderstood the complaint she signed.
No biological evidence was admitted at Doe’s trial. He was convicted and sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison. Doe’s conviction was overturned, but later reinstated.
The Innocence Project took Doe’s case in 1995. Although Thomas was out of prison on parole, he asked the Innocence Project to continue seeking DNA testing that could clear his name. In response to an Innocence Project motion, the court ordered the hospital, the MTA police, and Pearson Place Warehouse to conduct searches for biological evidence in the case. Neither the police nor the hospital had any biological evidence, and the Innocence Project subsequently secured a court order for any documents the hospital or police had relating to the case. Those documents did not provide any information about biological evidence in the case. In 2000, after nearly a decade seeking evidence, the Innocence Project closed Doe’s case.
Cases Involving Sgt. Patrick McGuire:
John Doe #4 (Bronx)
In 1980, a woman was raped in the lobby of her apartment building. The perpetrator stole the victim’s ID card and several of her other belongings, and he later made threatening phone calls to her. Later, he returned to her home and cut her head with a piece of glass.
The victim identified Doe as her attacker. Although biological evidence was collected during the police investigation, it was not tested or admitted at Doe’s trial. In 1981, Doe was convicted of rape and sodomy.
The Innocence Project took Doe’s case in 2001. Along with Doe’s court-appointed attorney, the Innocence Project sought access to physical evidence in the case from the hospital and police. No biological evidence was located, and Sgt. McGuire officially notified the Innocence Project that the evidence was destroyed in a fire.
John Doe #5 (Kings)
Doe was convicted in January 1984 of rape in the first degree, sodomy in the first degree, and assault in the third degree. His conviction was based largely on the victim’s identification during a police lineup. Although there was a rape kit taken after the attack, it apparently was not presented as evidence in Doe’s trial.
The Innocence Project took Doe’s case in 1995. Knowing that if evidence from Doe’s case still existed, it would be stored at Pearson Place Warehouse, the Innocence Project pursued the evidence at the facility. Sgt. McGuire helped search for the evidence. After no evidence was recovered from the on-site visit, Sgt. McGuire contacted the lab where the evidence may have been sent. The lab did not have the evidence. Sgt. McGuire had consistently maintained that theevidence was probably destroyed during a mass destruction of unclaimed property in 1992. Finally, in a 1997 letter, Sgt. McGuire officially notified the Innocence Project that the evidence in Doe’s case had been destroyed. (Sgt. McGuire said that, complying with police procedure, his letter about the evidence was reviewed and approved by his supervisor.) Based on Sgt. McGuire’s letter claiming that the evidence was destroyed, the Innocence Project closed Doe’s case in 1997.
John Doe #6 (Kings)
In July of 1985, Doe was convicted of murder, rape, sodomy, and several weapons possessions charges. When a man and two women who were sitting in a park in East New York, a man armed with a gun approached them and demanded their money and oral sex from one of the women. The perpetrator tied up the man. The woman struggled with the perpetrator, who shot and killed her. The assailant then raped the other woman.
When Doe was arrested, he was wearing underwear that were bloodstained (he said that this was because he suffers from a kidney infection). The Innocence Project took Doe’s case and sought testing on his underwear, as well as on the victim’s rape kit and clothing. In 1997, after a search for evidence, the Innocence Project received written notification from McGuire’s that the biological evidence from Doe’s case was destroyed, and the case was closed.
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