Jury Out In Art Museum Murder Trial

Posted: June 26, 1987

A Common Pleas Court jury began deliberations late yesterday in the retrial of Miguel Rivera in connection with the forced drowning of a Manayunk youth and the rape of a girl on the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1973.

In his closing argument, Rivera's attorney, Peter C. Bowers, told the jury that the prosecution had failed to prove that Rivera was among six men who drowned Kevin Wolf, 18, in a pool beside the museum steps and gang-raped his girlfriend on June 27, 1973.

Bowers called the killing of Wolf an injustice and expressed condolences to Wolf's parents, who were sitting in the courtroom. He then told the jury: ''Two wrongs don't make a right. Let's not make another injustice. Let's not make another wrong. . . . I ask you to find my client not guilty."

Assistant District Attorney Neil Kitrosser told the jury that Rivera, who has claimed innocence since his arrest in 1973, failed in his defense to account for all his time in the early morning hours on that day 14 years ago when the crimes occurred.

Rivera, 39, served nine years in prison after being convicted at his first trial in 1974. The District Attorney's Office agreed in 1983 to a retrial

because important information that might have helped his defense was withheld by police and prosecutors, and the key witness against him had recanted.

In this trial, Bowers called three alibi witnesses who did not testify at the original trial and who placed Rivera in his former neighborhood of Fairmount during the approximate time that the crimes occurred at the Art Museum.

Kitrosser told the jury, however, that there was a gap of unexplained time in Rivera's alibi during which he was at the Art Museum.

The key prosecution witness was Juan Garcia, 33, who testified in five separate trials in the mid-1970s that he, Rivera and four others committed the crimes. Garcia testified in exchange for a reduced sentence. All the other defendants were convicted. In 1981, Garcia recanted and said he had nothing to do with the crimes.

But he disavowed his recantation earlier this year and agreed to again appear as a witness against Rivera.

In his closing argument, Bowers hammered at an array of inconsistent versions of the crimes that Garcia has told over the years.

"We know clearly that he's lied in every proceeding that he's ever testified in," Bowers said.

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