A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on vacation.
Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, G-d!” after he was freed.
“After 25 years, come hug your mother,” his mother said, and he did.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.
“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing.
From the start, Fleming told authorities he had been in Orlando, Fla., when a friend, Darryl “Black” Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn early on Aug. 15, 1989. Authorities suggested the shooting was motivated by a dispute over money.
Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush.
The eyewitness recanted her testimony soon after Fleming’s 1990 conviction, saying she had lied so police would cut her loose for an unrelated arrest, but Fleming lost his appeals.
The defense asked the DA’s office to review the case last year.
Defense investigators found previously untapped witnesses who implicated someone else as the gunman, the attorneys said, declining to give the witnesses’ or potential suspect’s names before prosecutors investigate them.
And prosecutors’ review produced a hotel receipt that Fleming paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting — a document that police had evidently had all along since they found it in Fleming’s pocket upon arresting him, Mayol and Koss said.