UPDATED: 12:30 p.m. ET, Oct 12, 2023
It’s a tragic story told time and time again: Black people convicted of crimes they never actually committed.
That truth was been revealed twofold this week with the exonerations of two Black men who were imprisoned for a combined more than a half-century for murder convictions in New York City that newly discovered evidence showed they had nothing to do with.
Thanks to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which on Monday announced the exonerations Wayne Gardine and Jabar Walker are now officially free.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., today announced his Office moved to vacate the conviction of Wayne Gardine, 49, for a 1996 murder conviction in the shooting of 22-year-old Robert Mickens; and Jabar Walker, 49, for a 1998 double-murder conviction in the shooting of 32-year-old William Santana and 30-year-old Ismael De La Cruz. Walker, who was 23 at the time of his conviction, was released from prison today after serving 25 years of two consecutive terms of 25 years-to-life in prison.
In Gardine’s case, “a joint investigation between the Office’s Post-Conviction Justice Unit and the Legal Aid Society uncovered new evidence from a second witness that undermined the testimony from the sole witness used at trial,” the DA’s office said.
We did it! Wayne Gardine was exonerated this morning after spending 29 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit. But he’s still not home. Tell ICE to do the right thing and let Wayne out of immigration detention now! https://t.co/GHgUlVRtzj pic.twitter.com/uLRtV49lZK
— Free Wayne Gardine (@nathantempey) November 27, 2023
In Walker’s case, a key witness “recanted his testimony under oath in 1999 and 2021, saying he was pressured to implicate Mr. Walker,” which the DA said shows he “received ineffective assistance of counsel, as his defense attorney failed conduct a meaningful investigation or adequately probe the weaknesses in the testimony of these witnesses.”
A Manhattan judge vacated the conviction of Jabar Walker — sentenced to 2 consecutive terms of 25 to life for a 1995 double murder he didn’t commit! An investigation revealed false testimony led to the incarceration of the man who spent more than HALF his life in prison! pic.twitter.com/b8SVMwxKHH
— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) November 28, 2023
A bombshell study in 2017 confirmed what Black people had long known to be true: that Black people are more likely to be wrongly convicted of murder than people from any other group. To add insult to the injury of wrongful convictions, innocent Black people waited years longer than the average time it took a white prisoner accused of the same crime to be exonerated.
“It’s no surprise that in this area, as in almost any other that has to do with criminal justice in the United States, race is the big factor,” Samuel R. Gross, a University of Michigan law professor, told the New York Times.
Of course, the so-called Central Park 5-turned Exonerated 5 are perhaps the most widely recognized instances of Black people being cleared following wrongful convictions. They were the group of Black and brown teens who were falsely accused and imprisoned between five and 12 years stemming from false allegations of raping a white woman in the 1980s.
The list of Black men, women, and teens who have faced wrongful convictions from prosecutors after being unjustly arrested and accused by corrupt police officers is far too long. Keep reading to find a growing list of additional examples.
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