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Jeffrey Toobin: DNA and the Central Park Jogger case

Jeffrey Toobin
Jeffrey Toobin

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(CNN) -- The 13-year-old case of a woman brutally attacked while jogging in Central Park has been reopened after a prisoner behind bars claims he committed the crime, rather than five men -- teenagers at the time of the crime -- who were convicted. The case has focused new attention on the role of DNA in solving crimes. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin spoke with CNN anchor Daryn Kagan about the Central Park Jogger case, and the role of DNA.

DARYN KAGAN: Let's talk DNA ...


KAGAN: ... and what you're going to be at, because DNA, it's in the news so much, and in the news lately about the Central Park Jogger case. And it's fascinating.

TOOBIN: It's extraordinary -- incredible.

KAGAN: Thirteen years later, a man who was not related to this crime at all, comes forward from behind bars and says, you know what, by the way, I'm the one who did it. And the five teenagers who served time, they didn't do it.

TOOBIN: You know, Daryn...

KAGAN: And the DNA matches.

TOOBIN: That's -- it's such an illustration of how much things have changed in just 13 years. In 1989, the technology simply did not exist to make the kind of matches that we do now.

And what we're going to do at the (New Yorker) festival on Sunday is Barry Scheck, who is in fact the lawyer for the defense in the Central Park Jogger case, he and I and a guy named Bob Schaller, who is the -- yes, there is Barry Scheck in the case, and I think...

KAGAN: Can I just ask you one question real quick?


KAGAN: The lawyer for the defense for this latest guy to come forward or for the five teenagers?

TOOBIN: For the five teenagers.


TOOBIN: He is -- just to refresh people's recollections, in 1989, a young woman jogger was jogging in Central Park. She was horribly attacked, raped. Five young men were convicted of doing the attack. A man has come forward out of prison. He's had a Christian conversion. He said he did it, and the DNA matches between this guy, who confessed, Matias Reyes, and the semen that was found on the jogger.

The five joggers are now -- the five people who were convicted are now saying, look, we had nothing to do with it. We want our names cleared, even though they have all served their sentences. They now -- that case is now before the courts. Barry Scheck is one of the lawyers representing some of those men who were convicted.

KAGAN: And just to make it even more interesting, one of the detectives on that case came forward and said he thinks they all did it; that perhaps that this latest man to come forward, Matias Reyes, that he came along after these five teenagers attacked the young woman.

TOOBIN: Well, that's really the issue, because now it is based on what we know about DNA. It is 100 percent clear that Reyes was involved. What is not clear is whether the boys, now men, who were convicted, were also guilty. That's what the courts are going to have to sort out now.

KAGAN: So, to bring it back to DNA, what's interesting, it can bring more into focus when looking at these cases, but not everything. It's not the clear-cut answer about everything.

TOOBIN: It isn't. And in fact, where Barry and I are going is the medical examiner's office, which is the office -- the place we are going to do this tour Sunday is the office that is examining all of the remains from the World Trade Center. It's a very somber, remarkable place, where they have done incredible work.

Interestingly now, they have identified almost half of the victims, 2,800 people, they have found remains of about 1,400. They are now going to go back over everything again and try to find some more -- to try to identify some more remains. But the technology just in the year since September 11 has advanced, because so much energy and money has been thrown at this problem. And the scientists have worked so hard trying to find answers for the families, and that's what we're going to go look at on Sunday.

KAGAN: Well, it's going to be a fascinating look.

TOOBIN: See you.

KAGAN: Jeffrey Toobin at "The New Yorker" magazine and even we're very proud to say, our own CNN legal analyst.

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