Four men and one woman have accepted a settlement offer after being released for a 1995 murder they didn’t commit. Each of them had served 18 years in prison due to “unethical tactics” by NYPD detectives, including coaching witnesses, breaking the rules for photo lineups, and withholding video evidence that would have contradicted a major witness.
The “Soundview Five” will receive $40 million dollars collectively from New York taxpayers in this settlement. Previously, they had received $19.45 million in another settlement over the wrongful convictions. In addition, the estate of a sixth person also falsely convicted, who has since died, received a $6.89 million settlement. All told, the totals for all three settlements equal $66.34 million that the NYPD will be forcing the citizens of New York State to pay.
Via the New York Daily News:
The city settled lawsuits Thursday brought by five wrongly convicted people who spent nearly two decades in prison, agreeing to pay out $40 million — one of the largest such amounts in city history.
The four men and one woman were wrongly identified as the killers in two 1995 murders, at least one of which was linked to a vicious gang in the Soundview section of the Bronx called “Sex Money Murder.”
The quintet was dubbed the “Soundview Five,” a reference to the high-profile Central Park Five who settled their lawsuits with the city for $41 million in 2014, after being wrong convicted of beating and raping a jogger in 1989.
The Soundview Five were released in 2012 and 2013 after new evidence surfaced that the real killers had confessed to one of the murders. Before Thursday’s agreement, they had previously settled with the state in the Court of Claims for a separate $19.45 million.
Earl Ward of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady and Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, the lawyers for Perez and Michael Cosme, another member of the quintet, issued a joint statement Thursday.
“So many lives were ruined by the shoddy, flawed, and unconstitutional police work that no amount of money could ever compensate our clients for their lost years,” the statement said. “But the settlement reaffirms what they have been saying for 20 years — ‘We are Innocent!’ ”
Perez, Cosme, Cathy Watkins, Eric Glisson and Devon Ayers were just starting their lives when they were arrested by police for the murders of a cab driver and a Federal Express executive in the Bronx in 1995.
Glisson, Vasquez, Ayers and Cosme knew each other from the neighborhood, but Perez and Watkins didn’t know any of them. Watkins didn’t even live in the Bronx.
Cops used unethical tactics to build their case against the quintet, including coaching witnesses on what to say and violating rules for photo lineups, Ward said. He said police also withheld a security video that would have undermined a key witness’s testimony.
“These suits were brought by people who together spent nearly one hundred years in prison, whose convictions were vacated by the Court after reviews by federal and local prosecutors,” a city Law Department spokesman said. “The parties have agreed to resolve these longstanding and complex cases through settlements we believe are fair and in the best interests of the city.”
All five were convicted and got life sentences, but they never gave up trying to get someone to listen to their pleas of innocence. They wrote letter after letter after letter to everyone they could think of.
In 2012, the convictions began to collapse when Glisson wrote a letter to an investigator with the U.S. Attorney’s office. That investigator, John O’Malley, read the letter and recalled that when two of the gang members agreed to cooperate years earlier, they admitted to killing the cabbie.
“He told us that when he read the letter, it sent shivers up his spine because he realized two people he had spoken to years earlier had confessed to the crime,” Ward said.
O’Malley provided an affidavit to the court, and the Bronx District Attorney eventually agreed not to oppose their release. The quintet then filed suit.
Perez, who was knifed in prison in 2003, said he clung to his faith to survive the long ordeal.
“I cried every day for 18 years,” he said. “You have that faith that someday you will be free. One day.”
Of course, there’s nothing in the article about the punishment the cops and prosecutors who ruined these six people’s lives will (not) be receiving for the “shoddy, flawed, and unconstitutional police work” that sent them to prison for 18 years each, even though they were completely innocent. Not surprisingly, the taxpayers will be the only ones being punished for that.