Recently, a 45-year-old Brooklyn man who was convicted along with another man of killing a man from Queens had his indictment dismissed by a Brooklyn Superior Court judge. The dismissal came 28 years, 11 months and 12 days after his arrest, and for the second man convicted of the killing, it came too late. He died in prison in 2001.
In 1985, the pair were 16 years old. Neither had ever had a drivers' license or learned to drive. Yet, under questioning by police, both confessed that they kidnapped a man, shot him and drove around before dumping his body in Aberdeen Park in Bushwick.
They were both convicted of robbery, kidnapping, murder and possession of weapons based mainly on short videotapes of their alleged confessions. The Brooklyn District Attorney believes these confessions were extracted from them by detectives working the case and refers to their prosecution as part of his predecessor's "legacy of disgrace."
Both men recanted their confessions before they were tried on the charges and even after conviction, never deviated from their insistence that they were innocent. The freed man received numerous denials of parole because he would never admit his guilt, saying, "I fell for that trick once. Last time I said something to get myself out of prison, I never saw my family again."
The mens' experience illustrates the important role of appeals and post-conviction relief after someone is convicted and sentenced to prison. Working in conjunction with a criminal appeals attorney increases one's chances of getting a reversal, new trial and even a much hoped-for release from prison.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Exonerated and Set Free After 29 Years" Sonja Sharp, Oct. 15, 2014