November 12, 2009Manhattan Supreme Court Justice John A. Cataldo vacated the conviction of Fernando Bermudez for the 1991 murder of Raymond Blount at the Marc Ballroom in New York City.
Kelley Drye & Warren LLP partner Alan R. Kaufman, who is the former chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, New Jersey attorney Lesley Risinger, the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and Barry J. Pollack of Miller & Chevalier in Washington, D.C. provided pro bono representation for Mr. Bermudez.
In a complete victory for the defendant, Judge Cataldo wrote the following in his decision and order:
“I find no credible evidence connects Fernando Bermudez to the homicide of Mr. Blount. All of the People’s trial evidence has been discredited: the false testimony of Efraim Lopez and the recanted identification of strangers. No other evidence supports a finding that Mr. Bermudez committed this crime.
I find by clear and convincing evidence, that Fernando Bermudez has demonstrated he is innocent of this crime.
Accordingly, the judgment of the conviction is vacated, and the indictment is dismissed.”
The defendant’s motion to vacate his conviction was granted on the grounds of newly discovered evidence; that material evidence at the trial was false or should have been known by the prosecutor to be false; and unduly suggestive identification procedures took place which violated the defendant’s state and federal constitutional rights.
Mr. Bermudez has been in prison in Sing Sing for 18 years for the murder. He consistently maintained that he was never at the scene of the crime. He had presented multiple alibi witnesses. No forensic evidence, no blood, no fingerprints, no DNA evidence connected Mr. Bermudez to the murder. The conviction was based solely on the evidence of eyewitnesses who later recanted their testimony. Four of the eyewitnesses jointly viewed Mr. Bermudez’s mug shot with one identifying him and the others then agreeing the photo resembled the killer.
Alan R. Kaufman said, “We are overjoyed that Fernando Bermudez’s conviction for a crime he did not commit has been finally overturned. Justice Cataldo’s decision unequivocally demonstrates that the authorities mishandled the investigation and ignored clear indications that the wrong man was being charged and prosecuted. It is unfortunate that the New York District Attorney’s Office, which I hold in high esteem, inexplicably chose to oppose Mr. Bermudez’s legal challenge in the face of such clear evidence that an innocent man was in prison. Thankfully, that continuing injustice has now been ended.”
To read the Fernando Bermudez decision and order, click here.
Alan R. Kaufman, Esq.