John Bunn wept and clutched the hands of the judge who exonerated him after he spent 17 years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Bunn, now 41, was 14 years old when he was charged with second-degree murder for the death of an off-duty correction officer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991.
Bunn, and another teen named Rosean Hargrave, were accused of forcing Rolando Neischer and his partner Robert Crosson out of their car, shooting them and then stealing the vehicle. Neischer died, while Crosson survived the shooting and became the sole witness.
Bunn’s murder conviction was tossed out in 2016 after it was revealed that the lead detective on the case, Louis Scarcella, used ‘false and misleading practices’ while he was with the NYPD.
On Tuesday, Bunn was exonerated of the murder charge.
An emotional courtroom: John Bunn clutched the judge’s hands and wept after she announced that he was exonerated of a 1991 murder charge
Bunn, overcome with emotion, bowed his head and cried during his hearing on Tuesday. He spent 17 years in prison for a crime he did not commit
Bunn broke down in tears in court on Tuesday as a New York judge told him his second-degree murder conviction had been tossed out
‘I want to say thank you your honor because it’s been 27 years I’ve been fighting for my life,’ an emotional Bunn said as tears streamed down his face.
The Brooklyn man then turned to the prosecutors and cried as he told them they had the wrong guy for the past 27 years.
‘I want y’all to know that y’all convicted and had the wrong man in prison,’ he said.
After the judge announced that Bunn had been exonerated, he approached the bench and clutched her hands. As the courtroom erupted in applause, Bunn bowed his head and wept.
‘I am more than emotional about this day,’ Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson said, according to the Daily News. ‘You were 14 at the time. This shouldn’t have ever happened.’
Outside the courtroom, Bunn told reporters that he felt ‘blessed’ and was ‘just thanking God I reached this point’.
Bunn and Hargrave were convicted based on tainted evidence produced by the disgraced NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. According to the New York Post, the now-retired detective placed the teens’ pictures in a photo array for Crosson.
John Bunn, now 41, was exonerated for a 1991 murder he was convicted of when he was 14 years old
Bunn spent 17 years in prison before he was released on parole in 2009
‘Y’all convicted and had the wrong man in prison’: Bunn told prosecutors that for the past 27 years they had the wrong man in prison for Neischer’s death
Bunn’s legal team said there were issues with the case from the very beginning. Fingerprints found at the scene did not belong to either teen, and at one point Crosson had described the suspects as light-skinned men in their 20s.
Bunn and Hargrave were dark-skinned teenagers. Defense lawyers said the teens were framed.
‘There were problems with this case that were very obvious,’ defense lawyer Glenn Garber said. ‘There was no probable cause to make an arrest.’
Bunn was released from prison on parole in 2009 and went on to create the nonprofit organization AVoice4TheUnheard.
‘Y’all had the wrong man this whole time and you have someone out there running free and y’all had no right to do what you did,’ he said during his hearing, the Daily News reports.
‘I don’t know how I made it this far, but I believe I am here for a purpose. I just want to be proven innocent…I didn’t want to be in the dark side of the shadows they (the prosecutors) tried to put me.’
Hargrave was also exonerated in the decades-old crime. Appearing in a Brooklyn Supreme Court on Monday, the now 44-year-old was told by the judge that his murder conviction was tossed out. Hargrave was 16 when he was convicted.
Jabbar Washington (center) was released from prison in July 2017 after serving more than 20 years for a crime he did not commit. Disgraced ex-NYPD detective Louis Scarcella investigated Washington’s case
More than a dozen of Scarcella’s murder cases have been overturned after it was found that he engaged in ‘false and misleading practices’ when he was a member of the NYPD
Hargrave, who was there with his girlfriend and cousin, sobbed. He spent 24 years in prison for the killing.
‘There were times I saw death – that is how badly corrections officers beat me for a crime I did not commit,’ he said outside the courtroom, according to the New York Post.
Both of the exonerations come as the Brooklyn district attorney’s office’s Conviction Review Unit investigate more than 70 murders that Scarcella helped investigate throughout his career with the NYPD.
Scarcella was the go-to detective in the ’80s and ’90s but it was found that he engaged in ‘false and misleading practices’ when he was a member of the NYPD. More than a dozen of Scarcella’s cases have already been overturned.
In July 2017, Jabbar Washington was released after spending more than 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Washington, now 44, was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 25 to life for a botched robbery that ended with one person dead.
During Washington’s trial, the jury was told that a female victim had picked Washington out from a police line-up conducted by Scarcella and another detective. The jury was not told that the woman later said she was pointing Washington out as someone she knew from her building, not one of the robbers.