Prosecutors withheld evidence. Judge frees men imprisoned for 24 years

The Chief of the New York City cops union needs an attitude adjustment. The same holds true for the head of the Police Officers Association in my home town San Francisco.

Three black men spent 24 years in prison or a crime they didn’t commit.

America is full of miscarriages of justice whether it be at the misdemeanor level or in the highest level of felony acts.

The cops have too much power. Too often prosecutors are their willing hanmaidens. It is fortunate there are now progressive District Attorneys who have moved beyond the grab ’em and lock ’em up attitude.

Chesa Boudin right here in San Francisco, George Gascon in Los Angeles and Larry Krassner in Philadelphis are three shining lights of progressive law enforcement.

Excerpted from The Washington Post 3.5.2021

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, issued a blistering statement, saying Charles Davis’s family is “devastated by the possibility that nobody will be held accountable for his murder.”

“There is absolutely no reason that these convicted cop-killers should be put back on the street,” Lynch said in the statement, arguing that if Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz “does not believe there is sufficient evidence of their innocence,” the suspects should stay in prison while the matter is evaluated.

Three men convicted of murdering an off-duty police officer and a business owner nearly 25 years ago were released from prison Friday after a judge declared they were wrongfully convicted because evidence that may have exonerated them was “deliberately withheld” from their lawyers.

The arrests in 1996 of George Bell, Rohan Bolt and Gary Johnson were heralded by then-New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who had vowed days before their apprehension that justice would be served swiftly, lawyers for the men say. But on Friday, Queens County Supreme Court Judge Joseph Zayas said the prosecutors who secured their convictions had suppressed information “that others may have committed these crimes.”

Speaking via video from Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison north of New York City, the three men thanked those who worked to earn their freedom.

After I was convicted for capital murder, I couldn’t fathom or wrap my mind around how God would allow the justice system I believed in to fail me in such a tragic fashion,” said Bell, who confessed to authorities in connection with the shooting deaths of New York police officer Charles Davis and another man, Ira Epstein, whose check-cashing store in Queens was robbed the morning of Dec. 21, 1996.

Although Bell and Johnson, then 19 and 22 years old, respectively, both confessed, they had been “subject to coercive interrogations” and their statements “bear all the hallmarks of the false confessions that resulted in wrongful convictions in the past,” according to a motion filed earlier Friday by private attorneys and public defenders involved in the effort to overturn their convictions.

At the time of the crimes, Bell had a job stocking shelves at an Old Navy and Johnson was a store clerk. They did not have criminal records, nor did they know Bolt, who authorities alleged was their accomplice in the botched robbery.

Bell gave a confession “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, a product of the fact that its details were fed to him by detectives who were working with incomplete and faulty information,” the attorneys wrote.

Black Power VII 11.8.2019

Bolt, 35 at the time and a father of four who owned a Caribbean restaurant, never confessed. He was arrested based on an identification from a purported witness with a history of drug use and “no known connection to the crime,” according to the court filing detailing the case’s history.

After testifying in his defense and maintaining his innocence, Bolt turned to the victims’ widows at his sentencing and offered condolences but said he “did not have anything to do with the murders . . . I know one day God will show them the truth, that Rohan Bolt did not have nothing to do with it,” according to a 2007 Village Voice account.

Reached Friday, Davis’s widow declined to comment. Attempts to reach Epstein’s family were unsuccessful.

The cases were handled under the supervision of District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who was in office for nearly 30 years. He has since died.

Zayas, the judge, granted prosecutors 90 days to reexamine the case.

Buffalo assualt II 6.6.2020

The fatal shooting was closely covered by New York media and prompted an aggressive response by the NYPD and Giuliani, who met the family of the slain officer at the hospital. At the time, New York City was plagued by gun violence and numerous police officers were among the victims.

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