An Elizabeth NJ man convicted of murder nearly 20 years ago has been exonerated.
October 28, 2013 was a momentous day in the life of Gerard Richardson, a man who has served nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted ofmurder in 1995. Mr. Richardson, now 48 years old, had been convicted of killing 19-year-old Elizabeth resident Monica Reyes. However, in light of new DNA evidence, Mr. Richardson’s conviction was vacated yesterday in Somerset County Superior Court in Somerville NJ.
On February 25, 1994, Ms. Reyes was found murdered on Old Stagecoach Road in Bernards Township, New Jersey. The cause of her death was multiple blunt force traumas to the head. At the time, prosecutors connected Mr. Richardson to Ms. Reyes through drug money. According to the prosecution, Ms. Reyes obtained drugs from Mr. Richardson, and, when she failed to pay him, he threatened to kill her.
The State’s case was also supported by expert testimony from a forensic odontologist, who testified at trial that a bite mark on Ms. Reyes’ back could be matched to Mr. Richardson’s teeth.
After Mr. Richardson was convicted of murdering Ms. Reyes, he was sentenced to 30 years in state prison. However, a DNA test has now connected the bite mark on Ms. Reyes’ back to an unknown male. As a result of these new findings, defense attorneys filed a motion to vacate Mr. Richardson’s conviction, which the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office declined to oppose.
Although the conviction was vacated, this is not the end of the story for Mr. Richardson. The State can now opt to conduct a new trial. State prosecutors may argue that the other evidence presented at trial still links Mr. Richardson to Ms. Reyes’ death, even if he had an accomplice in the murder. Additionally, the reliability of the expert testimony analyzing Mr. Richardson’s teeth could be in dispute.
This is a case that leaves many unanswered questions, with Gerard Richardson’s future hanging in the balance.
To learn more about this case, check out the NJ.com article entitled “After Nearly 20 Years in Prison, Elizabeth Man Likely to Have His Murder Conviction Vacated Today.”