Manhattan’s radical Democrat District Attorney Alvin Bragg has successfully moved to vacate the convictions of two men who had been convicted of murder in the 1990s.
ABC News reported that prosecutors in Bragg’s office determined that “newly discovered evidence” in both cases had led to the conclusion that both men had suffered “wrongful conviction” and “unjust” imprisonment for crimes that they now appear to have not committed.
Bragg’s office worked in conjunction with a pair of nonprofit organizations.
A press release on Monday announced that prosecutors within DA Bragg’s office, specifically within the Post-Conviction Justice Unit (PCJU), had reviewed and reinvestigated the 1996 murder conviction of Wayne Gardine and the 1998 double-murder conviction of Jabar Walker.
49-year-old Gardine, a Jamaican migrant who moved to the U.S. with his family as a child, had been convicted and sentenced to more than 18 years in prison for the 1994 shooting death of Robert Mickens.
Walker, 49, also known as Jabar or Jamal Moore, was sentenced to two consecutive 25-to-life prison terms for the 1995 murder-for-hire shooting deaths of William Santana and Ismael De La Cruz.
In the case of Walker, prosecutors joined with and affirmed a motion to vacate filed by the Innocence Project.
Along with the PCJU, prosecutors discovered that two “non-identifying” witnesses had come forward to fully recant or walk back portions of their prior testimony.
The situation called into question the trial testimony of the “single identifying eyewitness.”
That “new evidence” further raised doubts about the effectiveness of Walker’s defense counsel.
The defense had apparently failed to interview those other two witnesses or expose the weakness of the supposed sole eyewitness to the double murder.
As such, the motion called for Walker’s conviction to be vacated, and the underlying indictment to be dismissed.
He was immediately released from prison.
“Not only was the case against Jabar Walker built upon unreliable and recanted testimony, he did not have the benefit of an effective defense attorney — one of the constitutional bedrocks of our justice system,” DA Bragg said in a statement.
“Despite these serious issues, Mr. Walker received a sentence that could have kept him in prison for his entire life.
“I am thrilled that he can now finally return home and thank the Innocence Project for its steadfast advocacy throughout this matter.”
According to Bragg’s office, Judge Miriam Best approved the motion to vacate.
ABC News reported that “Walker entered a courtroom Monday in handcuffs and exited a free man after serving 25 years in prison.”
As for Gardine, DA Bragg’s prosecutors joined with the Legal Aid Society on a motion to vacate his prior conviction in light of “new evidence from a second witness that undermined the testimony from the sole witness used at trial.”
That motion, which was approved by Judge Kathryn Paek, called for the conviction to be vacated and the underlying indictment to be dismissed.
Separately, the Legal Aid Society also urged U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to cease those immigration proceedings and immediately release Gardine.
ICE took custody of Gardine upon his release on parole in 2022 pending deportation.
“Wayne Gardine was just 22 years old when he was sentenced to decades in prison following a trial that we now believe relied on an unreliable witness and testimony – losing years of freedom due to an unjust conviction,” Bragg said in a statement.
“Unjust convictions are the height of injustice and while we can never completely undo the pain he has experienced, I hope this is the first step in allowing Mr. Gardine to rebuild his life and reunite with his loved ones.
“I thank the Legal Aid Society for its outstanding collaboration in this matter.”
Lou Fox, the Legal Aid Society attorney who now represents Gardine, said in a statement:
“We are elated that Mr. Gardine will finally have his name cleared of this conviction that has haunted him for nearly three decades, yet he is still not a free man and faces additional and unwarranted punishment if deported.”
“We thank New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg for joining us on this motion, and we call on ICE to immediately release our client so he can return to his family and community, and to drop deportation proceedings,” the attorney added.