A man who was wrongfully convicted for an East Harlem sexual assault in 1985 was exonerated due to recently found DNA evidence. His felony conviction was vacated following a joint investigation by the Innocence Project and the Manhattan District Attorney Office’s Conviction Integrity Program.
Rafael Ruiz was released from prison in 2009 after serving a full 25-year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He was accused of sexually assaulting a woman on the rooftop of a Manhattan apartment building in April 1984.
Newly discovered DNA evidence from the survivor’s sexual assault kit proved Ruiz’s innocence. In addition, the woman’s current account of the assault was significantly different from her trial testimony and what she had told investigators at the time. Ruiz, 60, was convicted based on her description of the assailant, a man named “Ronnie.” An Innocence Project attorney pointed out that the police investigation had been “inadequate” and used “unduly suggestive identification procedures.”
Ruiz was offered a plea bargain of 1.5 to three years, but he rejected it. He proclaimed his innocence at his trial, which occurred when he was 25 years old. According to the Innocence Project, Ruiz’s case draws attention to what is known as the “trial penalty.” Defendants end up receiving lengthier prison sentences for choosing to take their case to trial rather than plead guilty and accept a plea deal.
A wrongful conviction has the power to ruin a person’s life. Assault is a serious charge that can result in a felony conviction with a potential prison sentence of up to 25 years. It is critical that you have a lawyer who will fight to protect your freedom with a strong defense strategy.