Court Battles

New York man exonerated after serving 25-year prison sentence

Judges use a small wooden mallet to signal for attention or order.

A judge formally cleared a New York man of rape charges on Tuesday after DNA tests showed he wasn’t a match for the rape that put him in prison.

New York state Supreme Court Judge Stephen Antiginia exonerated Rafael Ruiz, who had long denied the crime and refused a plea deal to serve 1 1/2 to three years, the Innocence Project announced

“I am thankful to the Innocence Project for all their work to make today a reality,” Ruiz, who left prison years ago, said in a statement. “I lost 25 years of my life because I insisted upon my innocence and rejected plea bargains. Today feels like a huge burden off my shoulders and I look forward to living a good life moving forward.”

While incarcerated, Ruiz obtained assistance from attorney William Tendy, who further investigated the situation and discovered an alternate suspect who fit the description, even by name, that the rape victim gave. 

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit aimed at exonerated wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing, and the New York County District Attorney’s Office conviction project then started reinvestigating the case. 

The Innocence Project found the rape kit from the victim’s case in late 2019, nearly a decade after Ruiz had been out of prison, and discovered that samples of Ruiz’s DNA were not a match, The New York Times reports

The victim also told prosecutors in a September 2018 interview she remembered “feeling pressure” from the original detectives to identify a suspect, the Times reported, citing court documents.

Tags Innocence Project New York Overturned conviction Rafael Ruiz

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