At 8:14 a.m. on June 7, 1979, 17-year-old Renee Katz – a dedicated musician who sang and played the flute – was waiting for the subway at the 40th Street and 8th Avenue station. As the E train arrived, an unknown assailant shoved Katz from behind, onto the tracks. Her right hand was severed at the wrist, but surgeons were able to reattach it with microsurgery.
The police had no leads, save a few vague descriptions. They set up a telephone hotline, which netted the name Allen Lewis among 50-plus tape-recorded calls. Lewis, it turned out, had been previously arrested for lewd behavior on the E train. In late July, detectives began following him. On August 20, Lewis confronted the officers and agreed to talk. Police gave him a lie detector test, with mixed results. Detective John Morgan obliquely threatened Lewis with a beating during interrogation (a technique he later called “a metaphor”), and Lewis, who claimed he’d been beaten frequently as a child, said he pushed a blond off the subway platform on June 7. Lewis immediately appended this confession with an assurance it was untrue.
The case went to trial early in 1980. Katz couldn’t identify her assailant. No one directly placed Lewis at the scene. The proceedings lasted 6 days – almost as long as deliberations, for the jury deadlocked 3 times. They acquitted Lewis on January 25, 1980. The Times theorized the initial anonymous tip implicating Lewis was made by Haywood Dancy, against whom Lewis had testified on an unrelated matter in March 1979.