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Man exonerated of killing after 25 years in jail to sue New York for $162m

The Guardian spent a day with Fleming this spring.

A man recently exonerated in a 1989 New York City killing that happened while he was visiting Disney World has filed papers outlining plans to seek $162m from the city, one of his lawyers said.

By filing what’s called a notice of claim on Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming has made a first move toward suing the city over case that put him in prison for nearly 25 years. He was freed and his conviction dismissed in April after the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said it now agrees he had a valid alibi.

“I think this is the first step toward getting him what he rightfully deserves,” his lawyer Taylor Koss said.

The city comptroller’s office, which fields such notices and sometimes settles them, had no immediate comment Tuesday.

Fleming, 52, was convicted of shooting a friend in Brooklyn in August 1989, though he had told authorities he was on a family vacation in Orlando, Florida, and had plane tickets, videos and other material to show it. Prosecutors at the time suggested he could have flown back and forth to New York for the killing, and a woman testified that she had seen him commit the crime.

That witness later recanted her testimony, and defense investigators located witnesses who pointed to someone else as the gunman. Then, prosecutors’ review of authorities’ files turned up documents backing Fleming’s alibi, including a hotel receipt that he paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting.

Police evidently found it in Fleming’s pocket when he was arrested, but authorities never provided it to his prior defense lawyer. Nor did they turn over a 1989 Orlando police letter telling New York detectives some employees at an Orlando hotel remembered Fleming.

The authorities’ conduct led to Fleming “suffering in prison for nearly 25 years for a crime that he didn’t commit,” according to his notice of claim.

Wrongfully convicted people often can pursue federal civil-rights lawsuits and claims under state laws, but some claims are resolved before going to court. In a recent example, the city comptroller’s office settled for $6.4m with David Ranta after Brooklyn prosecutors last year disavowed his 1990 conviction in the killing of a rabbi. He’d filed a $150m notice of claim.

After Fleming’s release, an online crowd-funding campaign raised almost $50,000 for him. He also has been looking for a job, Koss said.

Source: The Hill

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