In January 1991, a woman told Harlem police she was kidnapped at knife-point and raped by three black men near her Queens home. Two of the men, Gregory Counts, who was 19, and VanDyke Perry, 21, were caught and charged with rape, sodomy, kidnapping and criminal possession of a weapon. Starting in 1992, Perry served 11 years in prison on a 7-to-14-year sentence and was released in 2001. Counts ended up serving 26 years on an initial 8-to-24-year sentence, leaving lockup on parole in August 2017.
Despite the fact there was no strong evidence pointing to Counts and Perry and the semen recovered from the woman did not match either man, they were found guilty on all counts excluding the weapons charges. According to the Times, the prosecution relied largely on the women's "inconsistent" testimony. The defense claimed that the woman made the story up to protect her boyfriend who two prior to this incident was wanted by police after shooting Perry. They said the woman, addicted to crack, was not a reliable witness and also had a motive.
Last month, the woman told the Innocence Project and investigators from the district attorney’s office that the rape "never happened." Before her confession, an F.B.I. database connected the semen found on her to another man through DNA testing.
On Monday, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. requested to a judge in the State Supreme Court for the two men's convictions to be vacated based on DNA evidence that was recently discovered, coupled with the woman's choice to take back her statement. On Monday, the Manhattan district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Program, the Innocence Project, and the Office of the Appellate Defender’s Reinvestigation Project filed a joint motion requesting to dismiss the original indictments and to vacate the convictions.
Outside the courtroom, Perry said, "This wrongful conviction destroyed my life. But I never gave up my fight."
Counts said on Monday, "I can’t be angry. If I waste a minute being angry it’s a waste of time. That’s a minute I could have been happy."