On Tuesday, a New York judge vacated the conviction of Jonathan Fleming for a murder he did not commit. Fleming was convicted in 1989 for the murder of Darryl Rush in a Brooklyn neighborhood. He has served over 24 years in prison.
Fleming had always maintained his innocence, according to CNN, claiming that he was vacationing in Florida at the time of the murder.
Proof of that innocence came in the form of a small receipt from an Orlando hotel. Fleming told authorities at the time of his trial he had made a payment for phone calls made from his hotel room shortly before the murder took place. He said he believed that the receipt for that transaction was in his pocket when he was arrested. The document that would have kept him out of prison never made to the courtroom during his trial.
In the course of the Brooklyn district attorney’s investigation, officials found that receipt in evidence files. A New York Times story indicates the timestamp on the receipt proved Fleming was in Florida just five hours before the murder.
"This is proof of alibi that was basically purposely withheld," said Taylor Koss, one of Fleming's attorneys.
Judge Matthew D’Emic agreed and turned over the conviction after "careful and thorough review of this case, and based on key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder,” said District Attorney Ken Thompson.
Thompson took office at the beginning of the year and has beefed up the Conviction Review Unit that was created by his predecessor. The unit’s main function is to investigate cases like Fleming’s and have wrongful convictions vacated. To that end, Thompson has named Harvard law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. as special counsel to the unit.
Fleming’s conviction is the third to be vacated this year and the office is being flooded with more requests for review. The Conviction Review Unit will also be reviewing some 50 cases that were part of investigations conducted by Detective Louis Scarcella, who has been accused of using illegal tactics to frame suspects. Scarcella was not part of Fleming’s initial investigation.
Koss said Fleming’s legal team will bring a civil rights lawsuit against the city and seek reparations.
"He has no job, no career, no prospects," Koss said. "We're suing everybody, let's be honest.”