Man exonerated after spending 25 years in prison on rape charges

Elise Czajkowski
January 28, 2020 - 2:42 pm
Rafael Ruiz and his family

Daniele Selby/Innocence Project

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- New York's Supreme Court on Tuesday vacated the conviction of Rafael Ruiz, who had been charged with sexual assault in 1985 and served 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Ruiz, a client of the Innocence Project, had always claimed his innocence. His conviction was vacated after a new investigation produced DNA evidence that ruled out Ruiz as a possible perpetrator.

"I am thankful to the Innocence Project for all their work to make today a reality," Ruiz said in a press release. "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."

Ruiz was charged with the sexual assault of a woman on the roof of a Manhattan housing project in 1984. At the time, aged 25, he was offered a plea of 18 months to three years, but refused. He ultimately went to trial and was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. He was released on parole in 2009.

"A prosecutor’s job is not just to seek convictions, but to seek justice," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. "Today, attorneys from my Office’s Conviction Integrity Program moved to vacate the 1985 conviction of Rafael Ruiz and to dismiss the indictment against him on the grounds of newly discovered DNA evidence."

"We were pleased to be joined in today’s motion by the Innocence Project and I’m grateful for their continued partnership. I’d also like to thank the prosecutors in our Conviction Integrity Program – the first on the East Coast – who work every day to review claims of innocence, and just as importantly, to improve prosecutorial practices on the front end and prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place."

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