Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Man released from prison 25 years after being wrongly convicted of murder...

Stories like this one scare the shit out of me.  Back in 1989, Johnathan Fleming was on vacation at Disney World in Florida.  He even had pictures and documents to back up his claims.  Yet he was still convicted of murder in New York.

It's been 25 years and he's now a 51 year old man.  Prosecutors now admit they got the wrong man.  Fleming is now free again.  But he spent 25 years in a prison cell for a crime he did not commit.  Fleming's 71 year old mother, Patricia, was eager to hug her only child once he was free from his handcuffs.

Fleming was apparently friends with the victim of the crime, Daryl "Black" Rush, who was shot to death on August 15, 1989.  Supposedly, the shooting was over a dispute involving money.

Although Fleming had plane tickets, videos, receipts, eyewitnesses, and postcards from his trip to Florida, prosecutors still insisted that he had shot his friend.  He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.  Well, despite the fact that he was innocent, Fleming served those first 25 years…  He was due to have his first parole hearing this year.  I have to wonder how he must have felt about that, knowing that he was completely innocent of the crime that put him behind bars and realizing that all of the evidence he presented putting him miles away from the murder scene didn't matter a whit!

I'm sure Fleming had many dark days and nights.  I'm sure that when he was first arrested, he had hope that the truth would ultimately quickly prevail and he'd be released.  As the years passed, perhaps he was resigned to his fate.  Thank God he wasn't in a death penalty crazy state or he might have been executed a long time ago.

This is yet another reason I have issues with most executions.  Unless there is absolutely no question that someone has committed murder, I think it's inappropriate.  And that's because the person who is put to death could end up being innocent.  It's bad enough to take away a man's liberty and dignity for 25 years.  Had they executed this man, I wonder how the state of New York would have apologized to Fleming's mother.  Fortunately, New York hasn't executed anyone since 1963.  I wonder how Fleming would have fared had he been incarcerated in Virginia, Florida, or Texas.

I'm glad justice for Fleming was finally done.  I hope the rest of his life is excellent.  I hope his case teaches other people about justice and how it should be blind.  I think that too often, lawyers are focused on winning cases and convictions rather than punishing the right person.  I wonder how prosecutors who get it wrong can sleep at night when something like this happens.  I know it would bother me if I was responsible for putting an innocent person in prison for any length of time, let alone as long as 25 years.

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