An man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 17 years for a murder he did not commit sobbed in court after being cleared of all charges.
After the passing of an off-duty corrections officer in Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991, John Bunn was accused of second-degree murder. At that time he was just 14 years old.
After serving 17 years in jail, Bunn was granted parole in 2009; however, he had fought for his exoneration in the next decade.
Together with Rosean Hargrave, another adolescent, he was charged of ejecting officer Rolando Neischer and his partner Robert Crosson from their automobile, shooting them, and then taking the car.
Crosson survived and was the only witness to the incident, while Neischer passed away.
As it became clear that the case’s chief detective, Louis Scarcella, had engaged in ‘false and misleading practices’ while working for the NYPD, Bunn’s murder conviction was overturned in 2016.
In May 2018, Bunn, aged 41 at that time, was exonerated of the murder charge.
“I want to say thank you your honour because it’s been 27 years I’ve been fighting for my life.” Bunn told Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson.
The Brooklyn resident then cried and told the prosecution that for the previous 27 years, they had the wrong person.
He said: ‘I want y’all to know that y’all convicted and had the wrong man in prison.”
In an emotional moment, Bunn moved toward the bench and sobbed while clinging to the judge’s hands, as the courtroom erupted in applause.
Justice ShawnDya Simpson said: “I am more than emotional about this day.
“You were 14 at the time. This shouldn’t have ever happened.”
Bunn told reporters outside the courtroom that he felt “blessed” and was “just thanking God I reached this point”.
Bunn and another adolescent Hargrave were found guilty using tainted evidence created by disgraced NYPD officer Louis Scarcella.
Scarcella was regarded as the “go-to” investigator in the 1980s and 1990s, but an investigation into his work led to the reversal of a number of murder convictions.
Scarcella reportedly added the images of the innocent teenagers to a photo array for survivor Crosson, according to reports in the New York Post.
The legal team for Bunn contended that the investigation had several problems from the start.’
The lack of either teenager’s fingerprints at the crime site and Crosson’s description of his attackers as light-skinned guys in their 20s are evidence of a wrongful conviction.
Bunn founded the nonprofit organization AVoice4TheUnheard after being released from jail on parole in 2009.
As of 2019, he had collected over 80,000 books through his foundation to build out libraries at Rikers Island, youth detention centers and other locations.
During his hearing, he said: “Y’all had the wrong man this whole time and you have someone out there running free and y’all had no right to do what you did.
“I don’t know how I made it this far, but I believe I am here for a purpose. I just want to be proven innocent.”
“I didn’t want to be in the dark side of the shadows they (the prosecutors) tried to put me.”
Co-accused Hargrave was only 16 years old when he was imprisoned. He was also exonerated in a separate hearing.
After serving 24 years in prison for the murder, Hargrave sobbed as he was ultimately freed in front of the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Speaking outside the courtroom, he said: “There were times I saw death – that is how badly corrections officers beat me for a crime I did not commit.”
Both exonerations occurred while the Conviction Review Unit of the Brooklyn district attorney’s office was looking at more than 70 murders that were under Scarcella’s investigation.