More than three decades after he was named in the initial indictment for the rape and attempted murder of Trisha Meili, a jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park, Steven Lopez has been exonerated.
Largely forgotten over the years, Lopez was 15 at the time of his arrest. He was one of several teenagers booked that night for a series of crimes in the area. He would later plead guilty to a lesser charge of robbing another jogger and served nearly four years in prison. Five other teens falsely convicted of assaulting Meili would become known as the Central Park Five. In 2002, the charges against them were overturned when DNA evidence linked someone else to the attack.
On Monday (July 25), New York State Supreme Court Judge Ellen Biben overturned Lopez’s conviction. “We talk about the Central Park Five, the Exonerated Five, but there were six people on that indictment,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg told the New York Times. “And the other five who were charged, their convictions were vacated. And it’s now time to have Mr. Lopez’s charge vacated.”
Present in court on Monday, Lopez, now 48, listened as his lawyer, Eric Shapiro Lopez, reviewed the case. No physical evidence was ever linked to Lopez, and original statements made to police about Lopez’s involvement in the crimes were recanted.
“What happened to you was a profound injustice and an American injustice,” his lawyer said. “They say justice delayed is justice denied and I’m sorry we’ve had to wait for 30 years.”