World News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Innocent 'murderer' to sue for £96m

Published 18/06/2014|03:17

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Jonathan Fleming is suing New York City after serving 25 years in jail for a murder he did not commit (AP)

A man exonerated over a 1989 New York killing that happened while he was visiting Disney World plans to sue the city for 162 million dollars (£95.8m).

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Taylor Koss, a lawyer for Jonathan Fleming, who spent nearly 25 years behind bars, said he had filed a notice of claim with the city comptroller's office - a first step towards suing.

Mr Fleming, 52, was released in April, after the Brooklyn district attorney's office said it now agreed that his alibi was valid.

A key eyewitness had recanted, newly-found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors' review of authorities' files turned up documents backing Mr Fleming's alibi.

"I think this is the first step towards getting him what he rightfully deserves," his Mr Koss said of the notice of claim.

The comptroller's office, which fields such notices and sometimes settles them, had no immediate comment.

Mr Fleming was convicted of shooting a friend in Brooklyn in August 1989, though he had told authorities he was on a family holiday in Orlando, Florida, and had plane tickets, videos and other material to show it.

But prosecutors at the time suggested he could have flown back and forth to New York for the killing, and a woman said she had seen him commit the crime.

However that witness later recanted her evidence and defence investigators located witnesses who pointed to someone else as the gunman. Then prosecutors' review of authorities' files turned up documents backing Mr Fleming's alibi, including a hotel receipt that he paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting.

Police evidently found it in Mr Fleming's pocket when he was arrested, but authorities never provided it to his previous defence lawyer, nor did they turn over a 1989 Orlando police letter telling New York detectives some employees at an Orlando hotel remembered Mr Fleming.

The authorities' conduct led to Mr Fleming "suffering in prison for nearly 25 years for a crime that he didn't commit", according to his notice of claim.

Wrongfully-convicted people can often pursue federal civil rights lawsuits and claims under state laws, but some claims are resolved before going to court.

In a recent example, the city comptroller's office settled for 6.4 million dollars (£3.7m) with David Ranta after Brooklyn prosecutors last year disavowed his 1990 conviction for the killing of a rabbi. He had filed a 150 million-dollar (£88.7m) notice of claim.

After Mr Fleming's release, an online crowd-funding campaign raised nearly 50,000 dollars (£29,500) for him. He has also been looking for a job, Mr Koss said.

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