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Miguel Rivera


Between 3:00 and 3:45 a.m. on June 27, 1973, 18-year-old Kevin Wolf and his girlfriend, Margaret Haderahan, were sleeping in a car parked at the Philadelphia Museum of Art when a group of men forced their way into the car. This group of men, whom Haderahan described as Hispanic, proceeded to drown Wolf in the pool in front of the museum and gang rape Haderahan.
 
The following month, July 1973, six young Hispanic men were arrested for these crimes: Miguel Rivera, Juan Garcia, Paul Valderrama, Juan Marrera, Israel Santiago, and Fidel Santiago. In exchange for a reduced sentence, Juan Garcia agreed to testify against the other five men. Rivera initially confessed to the crimes but soon claimed the confession was false and had been beaten out of him. 
 
At 26-year-old Miguel Rivera’s trial in November 1974, Juan Garcia’s testimony served as the primary evidence against him. Rivera contended that at the time when the rape and murder took place, he was near his home in another part of Philadelphia trying to locate his wife, who had stabbed him in the chest earlier that day. A jury comprised of twelve women found Rivera guilty of first-degree murder and rape on November 13, 1974, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
 
Juan Garcia, who claimed that he had been involved in the rape of Haderahan but had been only a bystander to the murder, pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to six to twenty years in prison. In addition to testifying at Rivera’s trial, Garcia testified at the trials of the four other co-defendants, all of whom were convicted.
 
After serving nearly six years in prison, Garcia was released. Following his release, Garcia changed his story, admitting to private investigator Russell David Kolins in December 1981 that neither he nor any of his five co-defendants had been involved in the crimes at the Museum of Art. Garcia claimed that police pressure had caused him to falsely confess and implicate the other men, and he provided a 128 page sworn statement recanting his trial testimony.
 
Around the same time as Garcia’s release, the attorney for co-defendant Paul Valderrama located new evidence that confirmed Valderrama had actually been in Ciales, Puerto Rico, at the time of the Museum of Art crimes. Valderrama had claimed all along that he had been in Puerto Rico in June 1973, and, after his conviction, his attorney located substantial new evidence to confirm this alibi was the truth. On the basis of this new evidence, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court awarded Valderrama a new trial. The district attorney dismissed the charges against Valderrama, then 29 years old, and he was released from prison.
 
In addition to these other developments, private investigator Russell David Kolins learned that the prosecution had withheld evidence that would have been helpful to Rivera’s case. In 1982, at the request of investigative journalists from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Rivera took a polygraph test, which he passed. Kolins was also able to locate new alibi witnesses who had not testified at Rivera’s original trial. In June 1983, armed with these various new developments and the new evidence, Rivera’s attorney, Peter C. Bowers, petitioned the court for a new trial.
 
In January 1983, Rivera was granted a new trial and freed on bail on the grounds that he had been denied a fair trial.
 
Leading up to Rivera’s retrial, Juan Garcia again changed his story, disavowing his earlier recantation and claiming again that Rivera had been involved in the crimes. At Rivera’s three-week retrial in June 1987, Garcia testified to Rivera’s involvement in the crimes. At that time, Garcia was back in prison for a parole violation. Rivera’s attorney was able to substantially discredit Garcia on the stand. In Rivera’s defense, the two newly located alibi witnesses testified regarding his whereabouts at the time of the crime. Rivera was acquitted on June 26, 1987.
 
In June 1989, Rivera filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and the district attorney’s office, in which he sought damages in excess of $75,000. The lawsuit was filed under the RICO statute, which allows for the recovery of triple damages in instances where it can be shown that there was a conspiracy to deprive an individual of his or her civil rights. In 1992, this lawsuit went to trial, but Rivera was not awarded any damages.
 
 – Meghan Barrett Cousino
State:PA
County:Philadelphia
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1973
Convicted:1974
Exonerated:1987
Sentence:Life
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:25
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct