Morris J. Warren, on trial for the third time on charges stemming from a series of sexual attacks 10 years ago known as the "Green Vega" rape cases, told a D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday that he lied in his original trial when he testified that he never met the women he is accused of assaulting.
Warren now says that the women he is accused of assaulting consented to having sex with him, and that they "misperceived" being threatened at knifepoint or gunpoint.
"The truth will set me free," Warren told the jurors, explaining that he has experienced a religious awakening since his 1973 conviction and decided to recant his orginial testimony. He is charged with armed kidnaping, rape, robbery and other offenses.
"Our Father God has sent a divine light unto me," said Warren, who attributed his change of mind to 10 years of imprisonment. "The light is my guide and because of that I must be truthful."
Warren was convicted after a four-week trial in 1973 on charges of armed kidnaping, rape, armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to commit sodomy in a series of incidents in which women who had been waiting at bus stops or trying to hail a cab said they were lured into a green Chevrolet Vega and raped.
Warren's conviction was overturned by the D.C. Court of Appeals on grounds that he should not have been tried with another man, John N. Davis, whose conviction was allowed to stand. Warren was again convicted after a second trial in 1978, but the appellate court reversed that jury's finding as well, ruling that some evidence had been improperly submitted at trial. He has been held in jail since that decision because he declined to post a $10,000 bond pending a new trial.
Warren, who has numerous previous convictions for unrelated crimes, is also facing a life sentence in Maryland for the 1973 slaying of a convenience store clerk during a holdup.
Prosecutors have also described Warren and Davis in court as suspects in the "Freeway Phantom" slayings of six District women whose bodies were found in 1971 and 1972 near heavily traveled freeways in the city and in Prince George's County. Neither has been charged in those crimes.
One of Warren's alleged rape victims died of a drug overdose shortly after testifying against him in 1973. A second has been ruled psychologically unable to testify in the current trial. Their testimony from the original proceedings was read in court this week. A third woman took the stand earlier in this trial.
Warren, testifying on his own behalf, has acknowledged much of the testimony given by prosecution witnesses, but denies ever forcing the women to have sex with him or participating in any armed assaults.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Biros has introduced as evidence two letters Warren recently wrote to one of the alleged victims. In one of the letters, Warren wrote that "my mind and my heart has been filled with hurt, pain and sorrow for the suffering that I have caused you."
The jury is expected to begin its deliberations Monday.