A wrongly convicted man who served more than 24 years of a murder sentence was released from prison Tuesday following a thorough review of his case by the Brooklyn district attorney's Conviction Review Unit. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
On Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming ended almost a quarter century behind bars.
"I waited for this day to come, 24-and-a-half years for this nightmare to be over, and this day is finally here," he said.
The 51-year-old came to court cuffed but left exonerated, hugging his lawyers and, of course, his mother, Patricia.
"Free man. Free man," Patricia Fleming said. "It's over. It's over now. It's all over, and I waited for this."
The 71-year-old said she always knew her son didn't commit the 1989 murder because she was with him on a family trip to Disney World.
In 1990, a jury convicted Jonathan Fleming in the shooting death of Darryl Rush in Williamsburg.
Prosecutors under then-District Attorney Charles Hynes contended he had time to hop a flight from Florida to kill in Brooklyn.
However, some evidence was never presented to the jury. A receipt shows him paying a hotel bill in Orlando just four hours before the murder in Brooklyn.
"And that's never turned over to the defense team. How is that a mistake?" said Taylor Koss, Fleming's attorney. "I'm not saying he was framed. What I'm saying is, it couldn't possibly be a mistake."
Koss said he doesn't know who to blame, but that an eyewitness who testified against Fleming had her own felony charge dropped afterwards – and that wasn't revealed to the jury, either.
"I can't tell you that at the trial, how frequently the district attorney referred to Jackie Valardo as a disinterested witness, that she had nothing to gain or lose by her testimony, that, of course, she should be believed and not Mr. Fleming's family," Koss said.
"I'm just so glad to have my baby back," Patricia Fleming said.
Jonathan Fleming's mother and his ex-wife, and Fleming himself, said they're not bitter, even though he would have been up for parole in August.
"I feel wonderful," Jonathan Fleming said. "I'm going to eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I'm going to live the rest of my life."
There was praise from the DA's office for its Conviction Review Unit, which last year reversed another old murder conviction.
"Today's actions follow a careful and thorough review of this case, and based on key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder, I have decided to dismiss all charges against him in the interest of justice," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
There is no comment yet from the DA's office on this case's possible suppression of evidence many years ago.