Two New York men who served a combined 36 years in prison after being falsely accused of rape in 1991 have been exonerated after prosecutors and their attorneys recommended their convictions be vacated.
Gregory Counts was 19 and VanDyke Perry was 21 when in 1991 they, and a third man who was never arrested, were accused of abducting a woman near a Queens train station, driving her to Central Park and taking turns sexually assaulting her.
Counts and Perry were found guilty of kidnapping, rape and sodomy. Counts served 27 years and was released on parole in August, while Perry served 12 years and was given a probation sentence for refusing to register as a sex offender when he got out of prison.
"I didn’t want to register for something I didn’t do," Perry told the New York Daily News.
But about two weeks ago, the accuser told the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that she had made up the entire ordeal.
“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,” Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said after New York County Supreme Court Justice Mark Dwyer vacated Counts and Perry’s convictions on Monday.
Perry and Counts’ exoneration came after Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. personally recommended their verdicts be tossed.
The Innocence Project, the Office of the Appellate Defender and the New York County District Attorney Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit launched a joint investigation into the convictions after it was found that DNA testing identified another man’s sperm in the accuser’s underwear.
The investigation found that law enforcement failed to fully investigate the case, according to the Innocence Project. Perry had insisted, and had time sheets to corroborate, that he was at work at the time of the alleged attack, while Counts said he was babysitting his brother.
“If a root cause analysis is done on this case involving all the criminal justice stakeholders, and it should be so we can learn from it, I think we will find this miscarriage of justice was avoidable and all the stakeholders bear some responsibility,” Scheck said.
To contribute to a fundraiser created by Counts to help him get back on his feet, click here.