A New Orleans man sentenced to 99 years in prison in 2000 has been released after more than two decades behind bars when his accuser finally admitted he’d made up the armed robbery claim – and picked the future inmate at random out of a lineup.
Jermaine Hudson, 42, was released on Friday – just one day after his accuser came forward to District Attorney Jason Williams of Orleans Parish in Louisiana to admit he fabricated the crime, NOLA.com reported.
‘For the last 20 years since this happened, I have been tortured by the lie I told,’ he said in an affidavit on Thursday.
At Hudson’s trial in March 2000, the unnamed accuser broke down crying. To Hudson, it was the sight of a man anguished about making a false accusation. Jurors saw it another way and voted 10-2 to convict him of armed robbery.
Judge Julian Parker sentenced him to 99 years in prison and for the next two decades Hudson’s appeals were denied.
Hudson’s case was one of 22 in which prosecutors recently moved to vacate the convictions. He agreed to plead guilty to robbery and receive a sentence of time served at a hearing before Judge Nandi Campbell.
Jermaine Hudson, right, with his fiancé, Latinya Darensbourg, in a photo provided by the Promise of Justice Initiative. The New Orleans man was sentenced to 99 years in prison and was released after more than two decades after the person who accused him of armed robbery recanted the claim, saying he lied when he picked Hudson out of a lineup. The man now says he fabricated the robbery because he did not want to admit he spent the money on drugs. Hudson was released on Friday
While former Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro often viewed recanting witnesses with suspicion, prosecutors under Williams dismissed Hudson’s charge at record speed.
On March 1, 1999, Hudson’s accuser, then 18, told his father that while riding his bike home from work he was robbed at gunpoint of cash and his St. Christopher medal. The father called police, who presented the accuser with a photographic line-up a month later. The accuser picked Hudson, who lived in the area.
Hudson previously pleaded guilty to armed robbery at age 16, but by 1999 he was working at a grocery store and providing for his 10-month- and 2-week-old daughters.
Retired Judge Julian Parker, who sentenced Jermaine Hudson to 99 years in prison for an armed robbery conviction by a jury with a split verdict vote of 10-2
A prosecutor offered Hudson a plea deal for a 5-year sentence, but he recalls saying, ‘I ain’t about to take no time for something I didn’t do.’
Yet he was convicted in a non-unanimous decision by the jury.
In other states, a split jury would not have led to a conviction, but Louisiana and Oregon allowed non-unanimous convictions, until the U.S. Supreme Court last year found them to be unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year found split verdicts to be unconstitutional. The decision currently only applies to cases with pending appeals, but after Williams took office on January 11 he applied the change to older cases like Hudson’s conviction.
‘I thank God for sending Mr. Williams,’ Hudson said Monday. ‘He’s just one of those men that God sent on a mission, and he’s listening. He’s actually listening.’
After Hudson agreed to the reduced sentence, his accuser came forward a day later.
The man now says he lied about the robbery because he did not want to admit he spent the money on drugs. He threw away the St. Christopher medal he said was taken in the imaginary robbery and picked Hudson from the lineup at random, he said.
Former Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro speaks at a news conference in New Orleans in May 2014. Cannizzaro, who prosecuted Hudson, often viewed recanting witnesses with suspicion. He fought to uphold convictions even after witnesses renounced their testimony and prosecuted several of them for perjury
Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams (left) dismissed the armed robbery charge against Jermaine Hudson at record speed. Judge Nandi Campbell, (right) who oversaw a hearing to reduce Hudson’s sentence to time served
The accuser’s substance abuse issues continued and he is currently in a rehab facility.
Louisiana law says recantations should be treated with ‘utmost suspicion,’ in part because of the danger a defendant’s acquaintances will pressure witnesses. Cannizzaro, the district attorney who prosecuted Hudson, fought to uphold convictions even after witnesses recanted and prosecuted several for perjury.
Yet Hudson says he was prepared to plead guilty to get out of prison. He and his lawyer, Jamila Johnson of the Promise of Justice Initiative, said no one in the defense camp approached the accuser.
Williams’ office agreed to provide the recanting accuser with immunity and moved to put the affidavit on the court record the next day.
Emily Maw, chief of the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office, said everything the purported victim now says is ‘entirely consistent with the case.’ Maw said prosecutors interviewed an alibi witness for Hudson in 1999 but disbelieved her.
The district attorney’s office subsequently moved to dismiss Hudson’s charge.
While many of the 22 split jury convictions vacated last month are slated to end in plea agreements, Maw’s civil rights division is reviewing others for mistakes during or before trial.
Hudson is now catching up with his fianceé, Latinya Darensbourg, hugging the daughter he barely knew when he went to prison and hoping to find work as a plumber.
‘I just thank God that it’s finally over,’ Hudson said. ‘Thank God for revealing the truth. I forgive the guy and pray that he gets his life back on track.’