Derrick Hamilton, Shabaka Shakur, David Ranta, Derrick Deacon, Anthony Yarbough, Sharrif Wilson, Sundhe Moses, Kevin Smith, Eric Glisson, Cathy Watkins, Devon Ayers, Michael Cosme, Carlos Perez, Jabar Collins, William Lopez, et al.
Today we add Jonathan Fleming to the list: people released from prison within the last four years after a wrongful conviction during the Tough on Crime era of the ’80s and ’90s.
As Pro Publica first reported, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is dismissing charges against Fleming, who has spent the past 24 years in prison on a murder conviction.
Prosecutors had accused Fleming of shooting 22-year-old Darryl Rush on August 15, 1989. The key evidence against him was the testimony of a witness who identified Fleming as the shooter.
Fleming’s legal team, however, recently found evidence supporting Fleming’s claim that he was in Florida on that day, at Disney World with his family.
As Pro Publica reported:
Investigators found a receipt showing that Fleming had paid a phone bill at a hotel in Florida just hours before the murder took place; an Orlando police report confirmed that several hotel employees remembered Fleming being there.
The team also found evidence supporting the claim that a key witness had only agreed to testify against Fleming to avoid criminal prosecution, unearthing a command log from the 90th Police Precinct showing the witness had been arrested prior to Fleming’s trial.
At Fleming’s trial, family members corroborated his alibi and defense attorneys presented plane tickets and home movies backing his story. Jurors, though, sided with prosecutors, who argued that Fleming flew from Florida back to New York to commit the murder before returning to Florida.
The witness who testified against Fleming recanted her identification just a few months later. The judge didn’t believe her and upheld the conviction.
Thompson’s predecessor, Charles Hynes, had fought Fleming’s appeal efforts. Thompson crushed Hynes in November’s election in part because of revelations that Hynes’ office committed misconducts that led to some–and possibly dozens of–wrongful convictions. Thompson’s office is currently reviewing around 50 cases.
The flood of releases rolls on. An article in today’s New York Times explained that Thompson’s office found convincing evidence for two more possible exonerations. Brothers Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin and were convicted of murder in 1985. One of the detectives handling the case was Louis Scarcella, whose sketchy and sometimes illegal police practices are at the center of the many potential wrongful convictions in Brooklyn. One of the witnesses who testified against Jennette and Austin was Theresa Gomez, a drug addict and prostitute who testified as a witness on several Scarcella cases.
Thompson’s office found that police had interviewed one witness who named two other men as the culprits, and another witness who said that Austin and Jennette were simply sitting on a nearby stoop when the shooting happened. But the notes from those interviews never made it to the defense attorney.
Jennette served 20 years in prison, then was released on parole in 2007. Austin died behind bars at the age of 37.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha