Sunday 25 February 2018

New York men freed by DNA evidence after spending 21 years in prison for triple murders

Sharrif Wilson (L) and Antonio Yarbough (R) spent 22 years behind bars over triple murders
Sharrif Wilson (L) and Antonio Yarbough (R) spent 22 years behind bars over triple murders

Two men who spent nearly 22 years behind bars for the murder of three people have been released from prison after a judge ruled DNA evidence used to convict them would not stand up in a court today.

Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson spent over two decades incarcerated in a maximum security prison for the murder of Yarbough’s mother, 12-year-old sister and her friend.

All three were found lying strangled and stabbed to death in Yarbough’s house, who returned to the property after a night at a party with Wilson and found their lifeless bodies. Wilson had gone to stay at a friend’s house.

"I was asked to come down to the precinct," Yarbough told CNN. "Before you know it, I had this photograph shoved in my face, and I was being threatened and slapped around, and they wanted me to sign a false confession. And I wouldn't."

In separate trials, Yarbough, 18 at the time, was sentenced to 75 years in prison and Wilson, then aged 15, received a lighter sentence of nine years to life imprisonment.

Wilson told CNN he co-operated with police for a lesser jail sentence and gave evidence against Yarbough.

“Out of the blue, I got a letter from his (Yarbough's) aunt,” Wilson explained. “And she asked me, did we really do it. And I had to tell the truth.”

He wrote back to her: “I was wrong for turning on him, but I was scared and pressured into it.” We're innocent, he told her. “For many years I felt horrible that I had to do that and that I actually did it knowing that we weren't guilty for a crime we didn't commit.

“I still feel horrible now.”

Five years after sending it, the letter led Yarbough’s lawyer, along with district attorney Attorney Kenneth P Thompson to review their cases in 2010.

Then in 2013, evidence in the form of a DNA sample from a rape-murder committed in 1999 resurfaced.

It matched DNA found under the fingernails of Yarbough's mother, indicating that the same killer had committed both crimes. In 1999, Yarbough and Wilson were in prison and could not have committed the second murder.

After examining DNA evidence, On Thursday Mr Thompson said the previous convictions for the 1992 murders in Brooklyn would most likely not stand up in court again and agreed the two men, now both aged in their late 30s, should be freed.

Yarbough said finding the person responsible for killing his family was “in God’s hands now”.

Independent News Service

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