The Innocence Project has secured yet another exoneration, this time of a man who served 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The primary basis for that conviction was testimony from an “expert” on bite mark analysis, something my friend Radley Balko has shown to be empty pseudoscience.
Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey Soriano filed a motion today dismissing the indictment against Gerard Richardson, fully exonerating him of murder for which he served 19 years. Richardson’s exoneration comes nearly two months after Somerset County Superior Court Judge Julie M. Marino overturned the conviction and ordered his release from prison.
Richardson was convicted of the February 1994 murder of Monica Reyes based largely on the testimony of a forensic dentist who claimed that a bite mark on the victim’s body matched to Richardson. He always maintained his innocence and was eventually granted the right to submit a swab recovered from the bite mark to DNA testing, but testing was inconclusive. His attorneys eventually sought help from the Innocence Project, which took over his representation. The remaining evidence was submitted once again for testing, and the lab was able to detect a complete male DNA profile from the evidence that excluded Richardson.Because of FBI regulations, officials in New Jersey have been barred from entering the DNA profile from the bite mark into the CODIS DNA database, which contains over ten million profiles of convicted offenders and could identify the person responsible for the 1994 murder. The true perpetrators have been identified in nearly half of the 311 DNA exonerations.
Those regulations need to be changed. Exonerating those wrongfully convicted is only half the battle for justice; the other half is finding the real perpetrator if that is possible.