After serving 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, a New York man enjoyed freedom for only 20 months before dying Saturday morning, his lawyer said.
William Lopez, 55, died of an asthma attack just days before his trial for a $124 million false-imprisonment lawsuit was set to begin, his friend and attorney Jeffrey Deskovic said.
“He was always looking forward to being compensated,” Deskovic said. “His life was really robbed from him.”
The Bronx man was freed in January 2013 after a judge threw out his conviction in a 1989 murder case built on shaky evidence. Lopez was accused and eventually convicted in the shotgun killing of a Brighton Beach drug dealer. The Associated Press reports that the case, that the judge referred to as “rotten from Day 1,” relied on the testimony of two witnesses and no forensic evidence.
One witness, according to the New York Post, gave a description of the shooter that did not fit Lopez’s profile. The other witness had just finished smoking crack-cocaine when the murder took place and later recanted. No murder weapon was ever found.
“In short, the prosecution’s evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble,” federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis wrote before releasing Lopez last year.
Lopez had been working on rebuilding his life during the 20 months he was free, his brother Eugene Lopez said. He was enjoying time with his wife, trying to build a relationship with his daughter who was only 14-months-old when he went to prison and looking forward to traveling.
Money from the lawsuit against the city was supposed to help him achieve his goals.
“He wanted to do some domestic travel to other states, and to travel internationally,” Deskovic said. “He wanted to go to college and to go to law school. He wanted to set his wife up in business, and he wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
His brother said he planned to use the law degree to help others.
“My brother Bill was greatly bothered by the fact that his life was dramatically impacted by being wrongfully convicted, as well as his knowledge that many other wrongful conditions have taken place without any changes in the system,” he said.