Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard has joined a movement to get a murder conviction tossed out. The man she's fighting for is in prison on charges of killing a retired police officer. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
A mother in pain demands a new trial for her son Jon-Adrain Velazquez, who's been locked up since 1998 following the murder of a retired NYPD officer.
She and her supporters, including actress Alfre Woodard, claim the Manhattan district attorney's office hid a crucial police report from the defense. Lawyers say it could have cleared Velazquez of the shooting.
"The district attorney deliberately refused to disclose that report," said defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb.
The case involves a retired officer who ran an illegal numbers operation on Eighth Avenue in Harlem. He was shot and killed during a robbery.
Defense lawyers say the old police report describes a potential suspect that strongly resembled a wanted poster the NYPD put out after the shooting. But the lawyers said they only were able to read it when someone anonymously gave it to them this year.
"Male black, 20s, lighter complexion than his accomplice, with braided hair. That is not Jon-Adrian Velazquez," Gottlieb said.
They say Velazquez had a short hairstyle at the time.
He has unsuccessfully tried to appeal his conviction numerous times, including to the state's highest court.
The Manhattan DA's office says it will review this latest claim and respond in court. The office says it did not conceal the report.
But actress Alfre Woodard, who's also an activist, isn't buying that story and says Velazquez didn't get a fair trial.
"This did not happen for Mr. Velazquez and because of that, he has suffered. He has suffered the unbearable injustice and the pain of being wrongfully convicted," Woodard said.
Several men who spent years behind bars but were freed after it was found that they were wrongfully convicted say Velazquez should be freed as well.
"You cannot maintain the public's trust by keeping an innocent man in prison for a crime he did not commit," said Johnny Hincapie, who was exonerated.
"I want to know when is enough wrongful convictions is going to be enough," said Jeffrey Deskovic, who was exonerated.
But it will be up to the courts once again to determine if Velazquez was wrongfully convicted.