Black Man Freed After 18 Years For Wrongful Murder Conviction

Black Man Freed After 18 Years For Wrongful Murder Conviction

Sheldon Thomas is finally a free man after nearly 19 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. According to The New York Times, released by officials the 35-year-old on Thursday (March 9) after he was wrongly convicted of killing a 14-year-old. A judge gave him 25 years to life in the case. Now, his conviction is gone.

Thomas said his faith inspired him to forgive the detectives, prosecutors and judges who imprisoned him. In his words, “God will judge them.”

“I’ve waited so long for this day to happen, and so many times I’ve been in the cell, I think about this moment…what I’m going to say, who’s going to be there,” Sheldon told the court.

It is said that Thomas came out of the courtroom with his arm around his grandmother.

According to NYT, Sheldon’s case is the 34th conviction to be overturned after a reinvestigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office review unit. His nightmare began on Christmas Eve 2004 when a car with three men opened fire on six others on a street corner in East Flatbush. One man was wounded, but Anderson Bercy14, died.

A report of district attorney’s office found that many people, from the detectives to the original trial judge, knew that Thomas was not the person chosen as a witness from a photo lineup. In a separate incident, Thomas pointed an unused handgun at police. Although the officers arrested him, the report also says “repeatedly harassed” with him for a few months.

After Bercy’s death, investigators used a photo of another Black man, named Sheldon Thomas, in an array. At the time, Sheldon both had addresses in the same precinct.

According to ABC News, a the witness was identified two of the three men in the car–not including Sheldon. Officers showed the witness a photo of another Sheldon Thomas, and he identified him with about 90% certainty, according to the report. The officers then proceeded to arrest Sheldon Thomas, who the witness did not identify in the photo.

Thomas pleaded with police, revealing that he was not in Brooklyn at the time of the shooting and had returned at 3 a.m. on Christmas Day from Queens.

However, the same witness also identified Sheldon Thomas in a personal lineup. This means he identified two different people as the shooter.

Thomas Convicted Despite Police Knowing He Was Not The Same Person As The Shooter

Despite having this knowledge, investigators and prosecutors moved forward, securing an indictment along with two other people in the white car.

More than a year later, former Detective Robert Reedy admitted to false testimony about the photo lineup. That happened during cross-examination at a pre-trial hearing. However, the court proceedings moved forward. Another detective later admitted that Thomas had told them he was not the man in the photo. But, the detective also claimed an anonymous tip that also helped identify Thomas.

The judge at the time agreed with the prosecution about the additional evidence. They ruled that the incident in the photo had no legal consequences. Not only that, the judge said the Sheldons resembled each other–a narrative that stuck.

The court eventually convicted Sheldon of second-degree murder and attempted murder. On Thursday, Sheldon highlighted the deception that Bercy’s family has endured over the years.

“It’s not just my life that was torn apart by due-process breakdowns and the miscarriage of justice, they are too,” he said.

At this time, it is unclear whether anyone involved will face legal consequences. A 2007 internal affairs investigation into Robert Reedy’s actions in Sheldon’s case was found to be insufficient for a perjury charge. To add, DA Eric Gonzalez said Thursday that the statute of limitations for that charge has run out. Reedy faced disciplinary action only for failing to document what the New York Police Department called a “mixing image array.”

“This is the first time in 25 years that I’ve seen false photo identification used as the basis for an arrest that actually went to trial,” DA Gonzalez said.

While leaving the courthouse, Sheldon reportedly declined to speak to reporters. However, every ABC News, he revealed that he wanted his first free food to be oxtail.