Innocent Brooklyn Man Released from Prison After 18 Years, District Attorney States Conviction Was ‘Fundamentally Unfair’

Innocent Brooklyn Man Released from Prison After 18 Years, District Attorney States Conviction Was ‘Fundamentally Unfair’

An error that has affected the life of an innocent man has finally been corrected, 18 years later.

The Brooklyn District Attorney of New York City announced that Sheldon Thomas, who has been in prison for over 18 years after being convicted of a murder he did not commit, has been freed and his conviction vacated. It was discovered that the conviction of Thomas was “fundamentally unfair,” according to Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, after a thorough investigation completed by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU).

“We must strive to ensure fairness and integrity in every case and have the courage to correct mistakes of the past. That is what we are doing in this case, where an extensive reinvestigation by my Conviction Review Unit revealed it was compromised from the very start by grave errors and lack of probable cause to arrest Mr. Thomas. He was further deprived of his due process rights when the prosecution proceeded even after the erroneous identification came to light, making his conviction fundamentally unfair. I am determined to continue doing this critical work whenever we discover a questionable conviction in Brooklyn” said Gonzalez in a written statement.

CBS News reported that last Thursday, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic vacated his murder conviction. In the courtroom, Thomas told the judge that he forgives the people responsible for placing him in jail.

“I forgive them. Just like I’ve made mistakes in my life and people have forgiven me and people have shown mercy on me, I will do the same,” he stated.

Thomas was arrested based on a witness looking at a photo of a different Sheldon Thomas. Although police officers knew it was the wrong picture, they proceeded to cover that fact up in order to close the case and obtain a conviction. Full details of the case can be viewed here.

The District Attorney in that case said that three people who were alleged gang members, including Thomas, had been charged with killing 14-year-old Anderson Bercy and wounding another person on December 24, 2004. A witness gave a positive identification for the other two, who were purportedly in a white car when the shooting occurred. That witness did not identify Thomas as being in the car.

Although Detective Robert Reedy admitted to falsely testifying that Thomas’ actual picture was not in the photo array, a judge still found there was probable cause to arrest Thomas based on “verified information from unknown callers.”

The District Attorney’s Office, before the trial started, dismissed the charges against one of the three suspects. That was based on the same witness failing to identify that suspect in a double-blind lineup, and prosecutors saying they thought he had a credible alibi. Thomas had to go to trial with a codefendant, who allegedly threatened the victims two days before the shooting took place. He was actually acquitted, while Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and related counts, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.