News 01.02.09

Three years later: Restivo, Halstead and Kogut

In 1986, three New York men were arrested and convicted in New York on charges of abduction, rape and murder based on a false convention and faulty scientific testimony at trial. It wasn’t until 2005, 17 years after they were first convicted, that

John Restivo

,

Dennis Halstead

and

John Kogut

were rightfully exonerated.

Restivo, Halstead and Kogut were loosely connected before their convictions. Both Halstead and Restivo had been interrogated by police as part of their investigation and Restivo would sometimes hire Kogut to help with his family’s moving business. However, after the police gave Kogut a polygraph exam and subsequently interrogated him for 12 hours, all the while telling him that he, Restivo and Halstead were responsible for the victim’s rape and death, that Kogut signed a confession provided to him and written by a police officer. By the time Kogut signed the confession, he had, given five other versions of the crime. In this sixth account of events, Restivo, Kogut, and Halstead were in Restivo’s van when they came across the 16-year-old girl, who they would later supposedly rape and strangle near a local cemetery.

Because of Kogut’s confession, Restivo’s van was searched and police would soon find two hairs that were deemed microscopically similar to those of the victim. The prosecution relied heavily on testimony from hair comparison expert Dr. Peter DeForest, who testified that the hairs could not have been deposited in the vehicle while she was alive. According to Dr. DeForest, the hairs found in Restivo’s van displayed “advanced banding,” a condition caused by bacteria eating away at the interior of the hair shaft.

After his confession, Kogut was tried separately in March 1986. Restivo and Halstead were tried together in November 1986 on the grounds that the two hairs corroborated Kogut’s confession. All three were convicted of rape and murder.

It wasn’t until 2003 that attorneys for the three men obtained property records from the police department that would eventually lead to the discovery of an intact vaginal swab from the original rape kit that had never been tested. The Innocence Project represented Restivo and worked closely with attorneys for Halstead and Kogut.  Test results of the swab excluded all three men as perpetrators. In addition, after years of research of the hair bonding technology, the state’s expert witness at the time of the original convictions provided the defense with an affidavit declaring that the hairs could not have been shed by the victim during the time that she would have allegedly been in the van.

In light of these revelations, John Restivo, Dennis Halstead and John Kogut had their convictions vacated in June 2003. Prosecutors retried Kogut two years later, and he was found not guilty on December. 21, 2005. Little more than a week later, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, having declared that it could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, dismissed all charges against Dennis Halstead and John Restivo on December. 29, 2005.



Other Exoneree Anniversaries Last Week


Leonard McSherry

, California (Served 13 Years, Exonerated, 2001)

 

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