José A. Alvarado Jr.

Photographer
 
Location: New York City, New York
Nationality: Puerto Rican American
Biography: José A. Alvarado Jr. is a Puerto Rican photographer dedicated to documenting class inequality, civic engagement, and contemporary issues in Puerto Rico and New York City. He works primarily in long-form storytelling, using visual imagery... MORE
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for The New Yorker: The Haunted Juror
josé a. alvarado jr.
Feb 16, 2024
Summary
In 1987, two innocent teen-agers went to prison for murder. Thirty-seven years later, a juror learned she got it wrong.
In 1987, Luana Mango Dunn was twenty-six years old and working as a secretary in midtown Manhattan when she received a summons for jury duty. Another person might have tried to wriggle out of it, but she did not. “I believe it’s our civic duty to serve,” she told me. At the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, at 100 Centre Street, she sat among the prospective jurors, answering questions during the screening process known as voir dire. When asked whether she knew anyone who had been a victim of a crime, she mentioned a relative who had been shot during a robbery in Manhattan a few years earlier. When asked about the recent murder of a French tourist that had made the newspapers, she acknowledged that she had heard about the crime.

She thought that this fact might prevent her from being picked, but it did not, and on July 6, 1987, she was seated in the jury box for the opening of the trial, the People of the State of New York v. Eric Smokes and David Warren. That year, nearly seventeen hundred people were killed in New York City. The murder at the center of this trial had occurred on January 1st, just after the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square had ended, when a group of young men approached a French tourist who was walking with his wife on West Fifty-second Street, near Ben Benson’s Steak House. One young man punched him, and one went through his pockets, stealing his wallet. The seventy-one-year-old victim, Jean Casse, was knocked to the sidewalk, hit his head, and died at a hospital later that day. After investigating for seven days, the police arrested Smokes, who was nineteen, and Warren, who was sixteen. The two—best friends who had been near Times Square that night but insisted that they’d been blocks from the crime—were held on Rikers Island, charged with murder and robbery.

Photographed for The New York Times, with words by Jennifer Gonnerman

The Haunted Juror
In 1987, two innocent teen-agers went to prison for murder. Thirty-seven years later, a juror learned she got it wrong.
Newyorker.com
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for The New Yorker: The Haunted Juror by José A. Alvarado Jr.
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