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Man released from prison after wrongful conviction

Disney World Receipt Clears Man Of Murder After 25 Years

NEW YORK (AP) - From the day of his 1989 arrest in a deadly New York City shooting, Jonathan Fleming said he had been more than 1,000 miles away, on a vacation at Disney World. Despite having documents to back him up, he was convicted of murder.

Prosecutors now agree with him, and Fleming left a Brooklyn court as a free man Tuesday after spending nearly a quarter-century behind bars.

Fleming, now 51, tearfully hugged his lawyers as relatives cheered, "Thank you, God!" after a judge dismissed the case. A key eyewitness had recanted, newly found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors' review of authorities' files turned up documents supporting Fleming's alibi.

"After 25 years, come hug your mother," Patricia Fleming said, and her only child did.

"I feel wonderful," he said afterward. "I've always had faith. I knew that this day would come someday."

The exoneration, first reported by the Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors' process for reviewing questionable convictions, scrutiny that comes partly from the new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson. He said in a statement that after a months-long review, he decided to drop the case against Fleming because of "key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder."

From the start, Fleming told authorities he had been in Orlando when a friend, Darryl "Black" Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn early on Aug. 15, 1989. Authorities suggested the shooting was motivated by a dispute over money.

Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, said his lawyers, Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss. But prosecutors at the time suggested he could have made a quick round-trip plane jaunt to be in New York, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and was due to have his first parole hearing soon.

The eyewitness recanted her testimony soon after Fleming's 1990 conviction, saying she had lied so police would cut her loose for an unrelated arrest, but Fleming lost his appeals.

The defense asked the district attorney's office to review the case last year.

Defense investigators found previously untapped witnesses who pointed to someone else as the gunman, the attorneys said, declining to give the witnesses' or potential suspect's names before prosecutors look into them. The district attorney's office declined to comment on its investigative plans.

Prosecutors' review produced a hotel receipt that Fleming paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting - a document that police evidently had found in Fleming's pocket when they arrested him. Prosecutors also found an October 1989 Orlando police letter to New York detectives, saying some employees at an Orlando hotel had told investigators they remembered Fleming.

Neither the receipt nor the police letter had been provided to Fleming's initial defense lawyer, despite rules that generally require investigators to turn over possibly exculpatory material.

Patricia Fleming, 71, was with her son in Orlando at the time of the crime and testified at his trial.

"I knew he didn't do it, because I was there," she said. "When they gave my son 25 to life, I thought I would die in that courtroom."

Still, she said, "I never did give up, because I knew he was innocent."

Thompson took office in January, after unseating longtime District Attorney Charles "Joe" Hynes with a campaign that focused partly on questionable convictions on Hynes' watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

Thompson has agreed to dismiss the murder convictions of two men who spent more than 20 years in prison for a triple homicide. He also dropped his predecessor's appeal challenging the 2013 release of another man who had served 22 years in prison on a questioned murder conviction.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming left court with an arm around his mother's shoulders and the process of rebuilding his life ahead of him.

Asked about his plans, he said: "I'm going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I'm going to live the rest of my life."


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @jennpeltz.

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JTalltrees1 April 09 2014 at 1:35 PM

idiots/glad he's free

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Gary Astorino April 09 2014 at 1:56 PM

I understand that genuine mistakes are made but when the DA who has all the investigators and the power of subpoena and the gun fails to turn over evidence he knows he has then to me that is a crime and the people in charge need to be put in jail for that or at minimum must be held financially liable with their public employee pensions.

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mjesdel April 09 2014 at 1:56 PM

WOW This is sad if we cant trust the system or atleast someone that can help when you are in trouble then , What can we do ? Run from the law cuss if they get you you might go to jail for no reason ,. Poor man with all the evidence The original Judge and laywers should go to jail and I hope he gets atleast 1 million for every year spend in jail . His porr mother had to see his only son in jail for more 25 years .

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1 reply
mygailbaby mjesdel April 09 2014 at 1:59 PM

"His porr mother had to see his only son in jail for more 25 years ." - As a mother that brings me near tears. SAD.

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geneus7 April 09 2014 at 1:57 PM

The police and prosecutors hid crucial evidence that could have exonerated this man. Jonathan Fleming lost 27 years of his life. The prosecutors and police in question should be held criminally responsible for the loss --"death" -- of 27 years of this man's life! Not holding these people responsible in a criminal way gives others the license to do the same thing just to get a conviction! Shameful! A definite blythe on Brooklyn's DA's office and police department.

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shpapillion April 09 2014 at 9:35 PM

I praise God that justice has finally been served and this innocent man has been set free. This man needs to be compensated for the years of anguish that he has suffered. I find it so disturbing that there were witnesses and receipts that proved his innocence from the beginning and those things never made it to court. So sad...I pray for God's blessings for this man and his family.

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dennis April 09 2014 at 1:59 PM

congratulations Mister Jonathan Fleming on the courts correcting an error....I hope they cover your attorney fees and loss of income for all of those years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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danicoinc April 09 2014 at 1:59 PM

The Brooklyn Prosecutor's Office should have to give him 25 million dollars, a million for each of those years he was wrongly incarcerated. Police and Court official corruption is rampart.

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TheBluesCrawlers April 09 2014 at 2:01 PM

Thank God for Good Lawyers that cares about people and not about convictions .
Make no mistake this could happen to any one with or with out a past or preset conviction.
When a person goes to jail for a crime and he/she goes to prison and finish their time its over.
That means the have paid their dept to society. Sue them sue them, sue them till there ain't no money left . You can't get back the years your child grew up with out his father. Sue them all.

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1 reply
Brad TheBluesCrawlers April 09 2014 at 2:07 PM

I so agree with you. Sue them until it hurts and, if the cops that covered it up are still alive, sue them personally and prosecute them.

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1 reply
cact25 Brad April 09 2014 at 4:16 PM

The cops did not cover it up. The prosecutors did. Cops give the DA whatever evidence they have and the DA uses it or misuses it.

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jaidadelinar April 09 2014 at 2:02 PM

Our legal system is far from perfect, but it remains one of the more fair world wide. That said, lessons can be learned from situations such as this if they are applied to future cases. Lawyers need to be held accountable in legal fashion. NOT just the loss of their ability to practice law, but facing jail time themselves, for withholding such key evidence that could have prevented this conviction. If that were done, we would begin to see less of these over turnings. Why? Because the lawyers would have their OWN freedom at stake for trying to railroad innocent people into jail. No system is perfect, not even ours, as is evidenced by this situation. We can work together to learn from errors - or in this case what appears to be DELIBERATE - in the evidence process so it does not happen again. I hope that we begin to see much needed reform, and much needed regulation - particularly in the behavior of prosicution. It is just as horrific when someone that IS guilty walks free due to process errors. Start holding the attornies accountable in more meaningful ways for these things and we'll see them being more 'careful'.

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1 reply
Peter Brown jaidadelinar April 09 2014 at 2:33 PM

Our legal system is far from being the best. It is rife with errors, the laws themeselves are overly draconian (Think drug laws), the sentences too long with no rehabilitation possible. It is a business based on cash in per prisoner.

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Mike April 09 2014 at 1:54 PM

Almost everyone who has commented is right. What's sad is , it is not changing. We have people who don't care that nearly 400 people were wrongly sentenced to death and still support the death penalty. We still have people that claim the poor and minorities are not convicted at a higher rate and more found innocent due to faulty prosecutions. DNA started the avalanche and their are still prosecutors that fight release and fight suits to return what was lost to that person. Shameful! And with for profit jails kicking back to political campaigns, supported by the Supreme Court, this will only get worse. The Tea Party ought to wake up and discover what life, liberty and the pursuit od happiness really means.

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1 reply
husdadgrandpap Mike April 09 2014 at 2:25 PM

The Tea Party has nothing to do with it. You sound like Democrat. I agree putting in jail for a crime he didn't commit is as terrible as it can be. Just to blame someone because you disagree with their politics is equal as horrific. I imagine you the murdering 50 million innocent babies is ok undering the guise it's her body and she can do with it as she pleases. By the way Einstein, there was no such party as the Tea Party 25 years ago.

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