New York will pay $17.5 million to a man who served 24 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
New York City will pay $17.5 million to a man who spent 24 years in prison for a double murder he did not commit, Fox News reports.
George Bell is one of three people convicted of the 1996 murder. Their victims were the owner of a Queens check store and an off-duty police officer. In 2021, a judge overturned the convictions of Bell and two other men, and they were released from the Green Haven Correctional Facility.
Judge Joseph A. Zayas of the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division said prosecutors in the cases of Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt withheld exculpatory evidence that other people may have committed the murders.
“The District Attorney’s Office intentionally withheld from the defense reliable information about the guilt of third parties,” Zayas said. According to him, the prosecutor’s office “has completely abandoned its role of seeking the truth in these cases.”
NYC is paying a record $17.5M settlement to one of three men wrongfully shames of murder in the mid 90s after disgraced Queens prosecutors lied and withheld evidence favorable to him — all while seeking the *death penalty*
Story by @HurubieMeko https://t.co/EIDMM81omR
— David Brand (@DavidFBrand) November 16, 2023
The acquittals of Bell, Johnson and Bolt came after Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz created a Conviction Integrity Unit to review past cases that may have resulted in wrongful convictions.
The December 1996 murders of store owner Ira Epstein and off-duty officer Charles Davis sparked an intense manhunt. Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor at the time, and police officials vowed they would “not rest” until the killers were found.
Bell was 19 years old when he was arrested on December 24, 1996. At first, he and Johnson confessed to their involvement in the crime, but then retracted their testimony. Bolt denied any wrongdoing.
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According to court documents, neither man was linked to the crime by physical evidence, and documents that emerged later showed that police linked the killings to members of an armed robber gang operating in the area.
However, the men were found guilty in separate trials and sentenced to life in prison with the right to review the sentence after 50 years.
24 years for $17.5 million
Bell’s lawyer, Richard Emery, said: “The recognition that George’s torture was unimaginably cruel and horrific vindicates him and his endless pursuit of justice.”
The deal with the city came after Bell reached a $4.4 million settlement with the state, Emery said. Bell’s $17.5 million settlement with the city of New York likely won’t be the last payout in the case – Cases Johnson and Bolt are under consideration.