But the case was reopened by District attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. in 2012, and Pedro Hernandez, a former bodega stock clerk luring and attacking famous Etan in a basement, was found guilty in 2017 of kidnapping and killing the boy. Hernandez, 56, who had lived in New Jersey for years, was traced by a tip from his brother-in-law. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for life.
Mr. Morgenthau lost about a quarter of his cases, and some that he won proved to be a miscarriage of justice. The most striking example was the conviction of five young black and Latino men from Harlem, four of whom were fake acquaintances on tapes during the beating and raping of the 28-year-old investment banker who became known as the Central Park Jogger.
After serving terms of 7½ to 13 years, the five were acquitted in 2002 after a captured serial killer and murderer, Matias Reyes, announced the crime. Mr. Morgenthau ordered a new investigation, including DNA tests that confirmed the Reyes account, and proceeded to evict the men in the courtroom.
"If only 13 years ago we had DNA," Mr Morgenthau complained.
"I think it was his best hour," says Barry Scheck, founder of the Innocence Project of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, who promotes the use of DNA to reverse unauthorized beliefs. "Very few DAs would have done that, but with his status, self-confidence, courage and dedication to the principle. In those and other cases I have seen, I believe he has asked:" Is this the right thing to do? to do?"
Mr. Morgenthau was probably the most innovative public prosecutor in the history of the city. To pursue financial crimes, he hired dozens of accountants and investigators with financial expertise. He promotes DNA testing and other modern research techniques. He expanded the murder cases and other units and hired Spanish-speaking interpreters and hundreds of black, Spanish and female prosecutors, and he created the agency's first sex crime and consumer affairs units.