Victims of the State

28 Cases

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New York County, NY
Ameer Ben Ali
Apr 24, 1891 (East Side)

Ameer Ben Ali, an Algerian sailor, was convicted of the murder of Carrie Brown, a 60-year-old prostitute. Brown had been killed in a hotel room across from Ali's room. The murder initially prompted speculation that Jack the Ripper had arrived in New York. Ali was pardoned and released eleven years later based on the identification of an alternative suspect and an affidavit from a prominent journalist stating that the police had planted a trail of blood linking Ali to the crime.  (CWC) (CTI)

New York County, NY
Oscar Krueger
Dec 10, 1910

(Federal Case)  Oscar Krueger was convicted of sending an obscene letter based in part on handwriting analysis. Following his conviction and his letters of protest to various officials, an Assistant United States Attorney reinvestigated the case and concluded Kreuger was innocent. Based on the attorney's recommendations, U.S. President Taft pardoned Kreuger and he was released after serving nearly a year of imprisonment.  (CTI)  [10/08]

New York County, NY
Pezzulich & Sgelirrach
Mar 22, 1919

Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach were convicted of armed robbery charges. On Mar. 22, 1919, seven pistol-wielding masked men robbed a rooming house at 36 Beach St. occupied by nine Croatians. The victims were robbed of $1728, $85, $13, and $15. One victim, Mike Zic, followed a group of robbers that went towards Varick St. He caught one of the robbers, Frank Strolich, and held him for police. Strolich denied his participation in the robbery and gave his address as 408 W. 24th St. A detective went to the address, a rooming house, along with Frank Zic, the heaviest loser in the robbery. There they met two Austrians, Frank Pezzulich and Frank Sgelirrach. Zic identified both as robbers. During the robbery two robbers' masks had allegedly slipped, allowing them to be identified. Both Austrians admitted knowing Strolich, but denied being robbers.
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New York County, NY
Harry Cashin
Feb 19, 1931

Harry F. Cashin was convicted of the murder of Detective Christopher W. Scheuing during the holdup of a speakeasy at 49 Lexington Avenue. Cashin was sentenced to death. His conviction was due to the testimony of Gladys Clayton, a woman of shady character. The prosecution concealed from the defense a witness who said Cashin was not “the right man.” On appeal, Cashin's conviction was reversed. The charges were dropped in 1933 when Clayton admitted that Cashin had nothing to do with the murder.  (ISI) (News Articles) (Archives)  [4/08]

New York County, NY
William Fisher
Jan 28, 1933

William Fisher was convicted of manslaughter for shooting David Feldman to death in a Harlem speakeasy. Feldman's killing occurred at the Belden Social Club on the southeast corner of 124th Street and Second Avenue. Three others were wounded during the incident, a “wild melee,” in which pistols roared and knives flashed.

Fisher was paroled in 1944. In 1958 a state court overturned his conviction for two reasons: (1) The trial prosecutor had introduced a gun into evidence as the murder weapon, which he knew had not been fired by Fisher. (2) The prosecutor had also suppressed witness statements that clearly supported Fisher's innocence. In 1986, Fisher was awarded $750,000 for his wrongful imprisonment.  (Archives) (ISI)  [9/07]

New York County, NY
Isidore Zimmerman
Apr 10, 1937

Isidore Zimmerman was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of a police detective, Michael Foley, during an armed robbery of the Boulevard Restaurant at 144 Second Ave. A gang of six, dubbed the “East Side Boys” by the press, had robbed the restaurant. Zimmerman was not present at the robbery, but was convicted for allegedly supplying the gun used in the murder. He was cleared in 1962 after it was revealed that a government witness perjured himself when he testified that Zimmerman provided the gun. Zimmerman was awarded $1 million for 24 years of wrongful imprisonment.

New York County, NY
José Carrasquillo
Mar 29, 1983

“José Carrasquillo was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in New York County on December 17, 1986. [The victim, Dominick Barberi, was assaulted outside the La Fontaine Boutique on Sixth Avenue near 21st Street.] The prosecution charged that Carrasquillo had inflicted a fatal blow upon the victim, who was apparently shoplifting from the boutique where the defendant worked. The victim died two days after the attack. The Appellate Division reversed the conviction on April 21, 1988, and ordered the indictment dismissed. The court held that the evidence was insufficient to establish that Carrasquillo, rather than his accomplice, had struck the fatal blow.” – Inevitable Error  (Appeal)

New York County, NY
Bryan Blake
Aug 2, 1985

“Bryan Blake was convicted of second-degree murder in New York County on December 5, 1985. The conviction was reversed on July 14, 1988, on the grounds that both defendant’s videotaped statement, containing improper remarks by the prosecutor, and photographs of the victim’s body, which were shown to the jury during trial, were unduly prejudicial. Blake had been sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison. The jury which heard the case on retrial acquitted him after ninety minutes of deliberation. ‘It wasn’t even close,’ said one juror. Said another: ‘We felt they had no case ... [W]e were surprised it got to the grand jury. It’s incredible what can happen to people, to be dragged into court with such a little bit of evidence.’ Blake had served over three years on the wrongful conviction.” – Inevitable Error  (People v. Blake)

New York County, NY
Francis Featherstone
Apr 25, 1985

Francis Featherstone was convicted of the murder of construction worker Michael Holly, 41. Featherstone was reputedly a ranking member of the Westies, an Irish organized crime group based on the West Side of Manhattan. Featherstone's conviction was overturned six months after his conviction when prosecutors felt another man had committed the crime. Prosecutors also said that Featherstone's defense attorneys had known the identity of the real killer throughout his trial.  [1/07]

New York County, NY
Central Park Five
Apr 19, 1989

Harlem teens Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana, and Kharey Wise, ages 14 to 16, were accused of bludgeoning, raping, and leaving to die a 28-year-old female jogger in New York's Central Park. The jogger was later learned to be Trish Meili, an investment banker at Salomon Brothers. The media referred to the assault as a brutal “wilding” by out of control youth.

The teens had been picked up in a police sweep of the park and conveniently were already in custody when the victim was found. All the teens except Salaam confessed to the crime on videotape. The prosecution would admit 13 years later that the confessions “differed from one another on the specific details of virtually every major aspect of the crime – who initiated the attack, who knocked the victim down, who undressed her, who struck her, who raped her, what weapons were used in the course of the assault and when the sequence of the events in the assault took place.” The victim was knocked unconscious and was not able to identify any assailant. All five were convicted at trial solely because of the confessions.

In 1990, following the convictions, DNA tests on semen found inside and on the victim, showed that it did not match any of the Central Park Five. The test results received little publicity and the recovered semen was attributed to a sixth “mystery” member of the gang. In Jan. 2002, Matias Reyes, 31, a serial rapist, confessed to committing the crime alone. DNA test results matched Reyes and the convictions of the five were vacated. The five had already served their seven to thirteen year juvenile sentences. At least three were denied parole for maintaining their innocence in the crime.  (American Justice) (IP1) (IP2) (IP3) (IP4) (IP5) (CWC)

New York County, NY
Lemus & Hidalgo
Nov 23, 1990

David Lemus and Olmado Hidalgo were convicted of the murder of Marcus Peterson and the attempted murder of Jeffrey Craig. Both victims were nightclub bouncers who were shot at the Palladium on East 14th St. Prior to the shootings, the bouncers had an argument with their assailants. During the argument, another man acted as a mediator between the two parties. At trial, three witnesses identified Lemus and Hidalgo as the shooters. The witnesses also identified Jose Figueroa as the mediator.

In Dec. 1992, Bernardo Rodriguez, a police informant and member of a Bronx gang named C&C, told police detectives that he had seen the Palladium shooting and that it was carried out by C&C members. He reported that the gunmen were Joseph Pillot and Thomas Morales. Two years later, Pillot told authorities in two separate interviews that he and Morales were responsible for the crime. He said that they had shot the bouncers after being denied access to the club. (Pillot claimed that his gun jammed but that Morales's did not.) In 1996, Pillot again testified to his involvement at a court hearing.

In 2000, during a federal investigation of C&C, Richard Feliciano, a former gang member, told the authorities that he was the mediator in the Palladium dispute and that Lemus and Hidalgo did not shoot the bouncers. He named Morales as the shooter. Several other witnesses backed up Feliciano's testimony, although some were gang members who may have had an incentive to turn on their own in the hopes of gaining leniency. Two of the witnesses were deemed to be more credible. In 2004, defense lawyers obtained prison records that showed that Figueroa, the mediator identified by trial witnesses, was in jail on the night of the shootings. In 2005, Hidalgo's and Lemus's convictions were overturned. Hidalgo was deported to the Dominican Republic. Prosecutors opted to retry Lemus, for in a taped conversation, he had confessed to a woman that he committed the crime. Lemus said that he exaggerated to impress the woman. In 2007, Lemus was acquitted at retrial.  (NY Times) (NY Times #2)  [10/07]

New York County, NY
Michael Mercer
Mar 19, 1991

Michael Mercer was convicted of accosting a 17-year-old in the elevator of a Manhattan building, forcing her to the roof, then robbing and raping her. The building was at 1405 Park Avenue, near 104th Street. The victim returned to the building two months after her assault, identified Mercer as her assailant, and yelled to passers-by, “Stop him! Stop him!” A crowd caught Mercer, beat him, and held him for police. The beating gave Mercer a swollen eye and several lacerations, two of which had to be sutured. DNA tests in 2003 showed that another man, Arthur Brown, was the actual assailant and Mercer was innocent. Brown cannot be charged with the assault because of the statute of limitations. Mercer was released from prison after serving 11 years.  (IP) (AP News)  [9/05]

New York County, NY
Fernando Bermudez
Aug 4, 1991

Fernando Bermudez was convicted in 1992 of the murder of 16-year-old Raymond Blount. Prior to the murder Blount had punched another teen named Efrain Lopez, allegedly after Lopez looked at him the wrong way. This incident occurred in the Marc Ballroom, a Greenwich Village nightclub on Union Square West. Lopez then approached an acquaintance in the club and told him what had happened. Later, at 3 a.m., outside the club, Lopez and his friends encountered Blount and his friends. As the two groups were getting ready to fight, Lopez's acquaintance asked him point out the puncher. After Lopez pointed to Blount, the acquaintance ran up and fired a bullet into him, severing an artery. Blount died in a hospital later that morning.
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New York County, NY
David Finnerty

(Federal Case) David Finnerty, a New York Stock Exchange specialist, was convicted of cheating customers by engaging in interpositioning. Interpositioning means that instead of matching pending buy and sell orders, a specialist can repeatedly trade for his company's proprietary account, making a profit from the slight differences in pricing. In 2007, the conviction was overturned and judgment of acquittal was entered. The judge held that the prosecution failed to prove that interpositioning is fraudulent or deceptive conduct.  (NY Law Journal)  [4/07]

New York County, NY
William McCaffrey
Sept 11, 2005

William McCaffrey was convicted of raping Biurny Peguero. The rape supposedly occurred at knifepoint while McCaffrey was taking Peguero to an after hours party in Upper Manhattan. Judge Richard Carruthers called the alleged assault “horrific” and “disgusting” when he sentenced McCaffrey to 20 years in prison. DNA tests in 2008 showed that bite marks on Peguero's arm and shoulder which McCaffrey reportedly inflicted contained no Y chromosomes, indicating they were not caused by a man. In 2009 Peguero, who had since married and adopted the last name Gonzalez, confessed to perjury. She said McCaffrey did not rape her and she was riven with remorse for sending an innocent man to prison. She said her injuries stemmed from a drunken brawl with a female friend. According to a psychiatrist who examined her, Peguero came to believe her lie because she had been too drunk to remember much of the night in question. McCaffrey was subsequently exonerated and Peguero was convicted of perjury.  (NY Times) (HPost)  [4/10]

Bronx County, NY
Joseph Barbato
Sept 15, 1929

Joseph Barbato was sentenced to death for the murder of Mrs. Julia Musso Quintieri. The victim was found by her six-year-old son, Joseph, upon his return home from Sunday church. Quintieri was reported as being Barbato's common-law wife. Police said Quintieri, 25, had roomed one time at Barbato's lodging house at 3215 Fifth Ave. but had moved to 2403 Cambreleng Ave. in the Bronx where she was strangled after rejecting Barbato's advances. Barbato contended his confession to the crime was coerced, a contention that police denied. However, the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in 1930 due to evidence that his body was covered with bruises and his eyes were blackened. Charges against Barbato were subsequently dropped.  (News Articles) (People v. Barbato) (MOJ)  [9/05]

Bronx County, NY
Arthur Barber

Arthur Barber was convicted of the murder of Elijah Williams, a neighborhood numbers runner, and was sentenced to life in prison. In 1975, nearly ten years after Barber's arrest, a federal judge released Barber on the ground that police obtained his confession to the crime with severe beatings and “a pattern of lawlessness that shocks the conscience.” Police denied beating Barber, but the judge said the “brutal treatment” was supported by medical reports, court documents, and witnesses. The judge also found that police had arrested Barber without probable cause, questioned him for an extended period before arraignment, refused to allow him to call a lawyer, failed to advise him of his right to remain silent, and searched an apartment for the murder weapon without a warrant.  (News Article) (Innocent)  [1/10]

Bronx County, NY
Boone & Cleveland
Convicted 1973

“[Larry Boone and Arthur Cleveland were] convicted of murder in Bronx County on December 6, 1973. [Boone's] conviction was reversed on July 15, 1975, because the prosecutor had failed to disclose crucial exculpatory evidence. On remand, the trial court dismissed all charges because the detective’s notes had been lost and because witnesses favorable to the defense (whose identities were not revealed by the government at the time of trial) were no longer available, and because there was no proof of Boone’s criminal intent other than his mere presence at the scene. The Court of Claims granted Boone summary judgment on his wrongful imprisonment compensation claim. He had been sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison, and had served nearly two years before being released.”

“[Cleveland] was sentenced to twenty years to life in prison. His conviction was reversed in 1975 on the authority of People v. Boone, on the grounds that the prosecutor had unconstitutionally failed to disclose crucial exculpatory evidence. The trial court on remand dismissed all charges. Cleveland had been imprisoned for four and one-half years.” – Inevitable Error  (People v. Boone) (People v. Cleveland)

Bronx County, NY
Georgino Borrero
May 8, 1982

“Georgino Borrero, a [drug] store security guard, was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Bronx County on July 6, 1983, in the shooting death of John Johnson. [The shooting occurred near the store located at 1500 Metropolitan Ave.] On appeal in 1986, the Appellate Division found that, after Johnson pulled a gun on him, Borrero had left the store to find a police officer and fired only when Johnson advanced toward him with a gun and assumed a ‘combat stance.’ The court found that Borrero had ‘acted entirely reasonably.... [His] conduct was that of a responsible citizen.’ His conviction was reversed and the indictment dismissed.” – Inevitable Error  (Appeal)

Bronx County, NY
Marion Coakley
Oct 14, 1983

Marion Coakley was convicted of raping Olga Delgado. The crime occurred in Delgado's room at the Bronx Park Motel. Delgado, her boyfriend, Gabriel Vargas, and Delgado's brother-in-law, Jorge Rios each independently described the rapist as a dark complexioned black male with a Jamaican accent, about 26-28 years old, with a short “afro” haircut. Rios identified Coakley from a photo lineup and got the other two to agree that he was the perpetrator.

Coakley was 28 years old. However, he was light complexioned and had no Jamaican accent. He had no “afro” haircut when arrested two days later. Coakley maintained that he had been at a Bible study meeting at the time of the crime and eight witnesses confirmed his alibi. Coakley also demanded, took, and passed a polygraph test. At trial, the jury was forced to resolve a difficult dilemma – eyewitnesses against alibi witnesses. The jury convicted Coakley. Coakley's post-conviction counsel then gathered serological tests and other new evidence. Twenty-five months after the trial, this evidence convinced a court to set aside the conviction. The DA then agreed to dismiss the charges.  (When Justice Fails) (News Articles)  [1/07]

Bronx County, NY
Bronx Five

In 1984, five men were arrested and subsequently convicted for sexually abusing 20 toddlers at three New York City funded day care centers in the Bronx. All the convictions were overturned on appeal. Police investigations used techniques on children to produce false testimony and implanted memories. One defendant, Alberto Ramos, was convicted in 1984 after police used torture to extract a confession. He was cleared in 1992. He later filed a lawsuit and was awarded $5 million in 2003. In 1986, Rev. Nathaniel O'Grady was also convicted of child abuse. At his trial, one of the child witnesses apparently had not been coached enough and he identified the judge as his abuser. O'Grady's conviction was overturned on appeal in 1996. Albert Algarin, Franklin Beauchamp, and Jesus Torres, were also convicted of child abuse in 1986. Their convictions were overturned on appeal.  (Gauntlet) (Religious Tolerance) (FJDB)  [11/07]

Bronx County, NY
Alan Newton
June 23, 1984

Alan Newton was convicted of rape after being identified by the victim. He put in motions in 1994, 1997, and 1998 to have the biological evidence tested for DNA. He was denied those motions because police said the evidence could not be found. In 2005, an Innocence Project lawyer asked a prosecutor for help. The evidence was found in its original storage bin from 1984. DNA tests exonerated Newton.  (NY Times) (IP)  [9/06]

Bronx County, NY
Morales & Montalvo
Sept 28, 1987

Jose Morales and Ruben Montalvo were convicted of murdering Jose Antonio Rivera. Rivera was chased through Kelly Park in the Bronx by a group of teenagers he had been feuding with. He was stabbed and hit with a baseball bat and sticks. One of the real killers, Jesus Fornes, confessed responsibility for the killing to a priest. The apparently guilt-stricken Fornes admitted to him and later to others that he had been part of the group that had killed Rivera, but he insisted that Morales and Montalvo were innocent. The priest advised he to speak to the court. Fornes spoke to a defense attorney on the defendants' day of sentencing. The sentencing was postponed. In the meantime, Fornes found a lawyer of his own, who advised him not to talk.

After Fornes died in 1997, both the priest and the lawyer independently came forward, as Fornes' death relieved them of any professional responsibility to keep Fornes' statements confidential. Both Morales and Montalvo were released in 2001 after this new evidence exonerated them.  (NY Times)

Bronx County, NY
Milton Lantigua
June 27, 1990

Milton Lantigua was convicted of the murder of Felix Ayala. Ayala was shot to death in front of 1520 Sheridan Avenue shortly after 1:00 a.m. on the morning of June 27, 1990. An earlier trial, conducted in 1991, ended in a mistrial when the jurors were unable to agree on a verdict. A witness, Frances Nunez Rosario, identified Lantigua as the shooter after claiming she had been alone looking out her apartment window. Later she recanted saying she had been preoccupied with a man in her apartment. The prosecutor refused to charge Rosario with perjury, calling her false testimony an “honest mistake.” Lantigua was released in 1996 and awarded $1.3 million in 2004-05 for 6 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (NY Times) (Justice: Denied)  [4/08]

Bronx County, NY
Jose Garcia
July 16, 1991

Jose Garcia was convicted of the murder of a friend named Cesar Vasquez. Three gunmen shot Vasquez to death in a courtyard on Bailey Avenue. Prosecutors at Garcia's 1993 trial claimed Vasquez and Garcia were linked to a drug gang battling for turf with rivals. However, they failed to show proof of Garcia's alleged motive. Their case rested on the testimony of one witness who claimed she saw the shooting.

Garcia was in the Dominican Republic at the time of the shooting and did not return to the U.S. until 17 days later. At trial, Garcia's lawyer presented almost nothing of his alibi. In Dec. 2006, after Garcia had served 15 years of imprisonment, a judge overturned his conviction. The judge credited Garcia with a strong alibi, including documents that appeared to show that he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for traveling with false documents a day before the murder. Garcia was released from imprisonment in Feb. 2007 after prosecutors declined to retry him.  [10/07]

Bronx County, NY
Richard Rosario
June 19, 1996

Richard Rosario was convicted of the shooting murder of Jorge Collazo. No physical evidence linked him to the crime, but two eyewitnesses identified him. However, abundant alibi evidence indicates that Rosario was living 1070 miles away in Deltona, Florida at the time of the crime. Rosario's trial lawyers failed to send an investigator to Florida to gather this evidence. Despite a post-conviction gathering of evidence, appeals courts have failed to provide him relief. Rosario is still imprisoned as of 2010.  (JD)  [10/07]

Bronx County, NY
Diomedes Polonia
May 16, 1997

Diomedes Polonia was convicted of attempted murder for allegedly shooting Thomas Hosford three times in the course of a robbery. The victim said Freddy Polonia was his shooter. Pedro “Freddy” Polonia is Diomedes brother and bears a strong resemblance to him. When police visited Diomedes' apartment they believed they had found “Freddy.” While in the hospital, the victim was shown fresh mug shots of Diomedes, whom he identified as “Freddy.” Later, the victim further identified the wrong brother at a precinct station house line-up.

The actual Freddy signed a handwritten confession to the crime, but then reportedly fled to Puerto Rico. He was later located in Massachusetts where he had been arrested for drug dealing and was making regular court appearances there. A team of assistant DAs got in a car and drove up to Massachusetts, but Freddy invoked his right to counsel and silence. Then, within days, Freddy fled again, reportedly on a plane out of Boston. Diomedes' conviction was eventually overturned and he was released in Jan. 2003, but only after his Legal Aid attorneys logged 1300 hours on the case, and Diomedes spent over 5 and a half years in prison.  (  [1/07]

Bronx County, NY
Frederick Lynch

After being summoned for jury duty, Frederick Lynch did not disclose on his own volition that he had a felony drug conviction. He had served on a jury before and that conviction was not an issue. However, the jury Lynch served on was hung and apparently the judge was looking for a scapegoat. Lynch was charged with perjury. To avoid a possibly lengthy prison term, Lynch pleaded guilty to perjury and served 3 months in prison.  (Lynch v. Justice Bamberger)  [10/05]