Ruddy Quezada didn't commit the 1993 drive-by shooting he was convicted of. He has always maintained his innocence, but he has spent nearly 24 years in prison for it.
According to the New York Daily News, Quezada's conviction hinged on the testimony of an alleged eyewitness named Sixto Salcedo. Salcedo recanted his testimony in 2001, claiming he felt forced to lie because, the night before he testified, the NYPD got a material witness warrant, held him overnight in a hotel and allegedly coerced him into testifying against Quezada. The Brooklyn DA who prosecuted the case never mentioned that Salcedo was a reluctant witness or the allegations of coercion.
At first, the allegations of witness coercion went nowhere. An appeals prosecutor had insisted that she never knew about the material witness order under which Salcedo had been held that night.
It was the late Ken Thomson, a successor district attorney for Brooklyn, who asked a judge in August 2015 to overturn Quezada's conviction. He had found a 2004 email from that appeals prosecutor that contradicted her statement that she knew nothing about coercion. He admitted his office could not retry the case, and Quezada was released that same day -- and the appeals prosecutor was fired.
Last year, Quezada filed for compensation for his unjust conviction and over two decades in prison. He sued the State of New York, New York City, the Brooklyn DA who prosecuted him and others, and the State of New York settled its portion of the case last month for $4.5 million.
The 54-year-old exoneree still hopes to hold New York City and its prosecutors responsible for their wrongdoing. His federal lawsuit against them seeks an additional $44 million. We wish him well.
Being falsely convicted of murder must be one of the most frightening and maddening situations one can live through. Not only does it permanently smear your reputation, but years behind bars also keep you from living with your family, earning money, building home equity, saving for retirement. The opportunities of your lifetime are stolen from you. If you or someone you love has been wrongfully convicted, please reach out to an attorney.