Elizabeth NJ Man Set to Have Murder Conviction Overturned After 20 Years in Prison
By Travis Tormey posted in Homicide on Monday, October 28, 2013
October 28, 2013 marks a momentous day in the life of Gerard Richardson, a man who has served nearly 20 years in prison after being convicted of murder in 1995. Mr. Richardson, now 48 years old, was formerly believed to have killed Monica Reyes, a 19-year-old woman from Elizabeth, New Jersey. However, in light of new DNA evidence, Mr. Richardson’s conviction is set to be vacated today in Somerset County Superior Court in Somerville NJ.
On February 25, 1994, Ms. Reyes was found murdered on the side of Old Stagecoach Road in Bernards Township NJ. The cause of her death was determined to be multiple blunt force traumas to the head. Originally, prosecutors connected Mr. Richardson to Ms. Reyes through drug money. According to the prosecution, Ms. Reyes had obtained drugs from Mr. Richardson, and, when she failed to pay him, he subsequently threatened to kill her.
The State’s case was further supported by expert testimony from a forensic odontologist, who testified 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 New Jersey State Prison. Since Mr. Richardson’s conviction, experts have conducted multiple DNA tests. Until recently, none of these tests produced any viable results. But now a test has 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. Attorneys for The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that uses DNA testing to work on behalf of wrongfully convicted individuals, is currently representing Mr. Richardson in this matter.
Although the conviction is set to be vacated, this is not the end of the story for Mr. Richardson. The State can now pursue one of two (2) avenues: dismissing the charges against Mr. Richardson or opting to conduct a new trial. Obviously, the defense is working to have the charges dismissed. On the other hand, State prosecutors are arguing 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 remains in dispute.
Clearly, this case leaves many unanswered questions, with Gerard Richardson’s future hanging precariously in the balance.
Vacating Old Murder in Somerset County Superior Court NJ
For more information about this case, read the NJ.com article entitled “After Nearly 20 Years in Prison, Elizabeth Man Likely to Have His Murder Conviction Vacated Today.“