Investigations

Locked up for a crime not committed

Monday, October 15, 2012

An Eyewitness News exclusive into an unraveling prosecution in the Bronx. Federal investigators say 5 people convicted of murdering a livery cab driver in 1995 are innocent, and those convictions are now in jeopardy.

The Bronx district attorney's office has agreed to conditionally release two of the five people who've already served 17 years in prison, including Eric Glisson, who's at the center of this legal firestorm.

This may be the first case of its kind ever in New York city,so many murder convictions in doubt in one case. This is a story about a man's determination to prove his innocence from behind bars, a twist in fate and a federal investigator committed to righting a wrong.

WALLACE: "This was kind of your last hope."
GLISSON: "Last hope, I'd lost all my appeals."

Eric Glisson's claims of innocence to prosecutors and judges had fallen on deaf ears for 17 years, so imagine his shock this past June when the 37 year-old convicted murderer received a visit at Sing Sing from an investigator with the US attorney's office.

"He said, did you write this letter and I said yes," Glisson said.

Glisson had sent a letter with information he'd gleaned in prison about gang members who might be the real killers of a livery cab driver named Baithe Diop. Glisson was convicted of the cabbie's murder.

"January 19, 1995 was the date of the incident," he said.

Glisson's letter ended up into the hands of Federal investigator John O'Malley, who now writes in this affidavit that he first received a confession as far back as 2002 from two gang members, turned federal cooperators who admitted being involved in a similar-sounding crime.

But apparently their information was initially vague. They just knew they'd shot a cabbie on the street, but they didn't know if he died and they didn't remember the exact date. The two admitted shooters also never found out until much later that five people were serving time for their crime, including Eric Glisson, and a young mother named Cathy Watkins.

Investigator O'Malley says he spoke with detectives at the 43rd precinct trying to get help locating any pertinent homicide files or police reports. There were no matching results. No one there ever told him about the homicide case. Baithe Diop, Glisson's pro bono attorney, believes the detectives were stonewalling.

"Nobody could identify the cab driver who was murdered in 1995, that to me is incredible," Peter Cross said.

It wasn't until Glisson's letter arrived that Investigator O'Malley found out that someone was in prison for the crime the two federal cooperators had admitted to.

GLISSON: "He says I know the two individuals who committed this crime and they confessed to it already. He shook my hand and said, I'm sorry."
WALLACE: "Did he tell you he thought you were innocent?"
GLISSON: He says I think you're innocent. He says I know you're innocent. He said I'm going to do whatever I can to take you out of here."

But even after that, Glisson has remained behind bars, the Bronx DA's office saying it needed to independently confirm the confessions of the two Federal cooperators. Under their plea deal, they won't ever face murder charges for the cabbie's killing. They pleaded guilty to robbery and are now out, re-located by the government.

"I did 18 years for a crime they committed and nothing can ever justify that. Nothing can correct that," Glisson said.

The paradox, if it weren't for the two federal cooperators agreeing to tell the truth now, Glisson wouldn't be getting out of prison. It's expected that he and Cathy Watkins will be released this Friday after a court appearance. The District Attorney's office is insisting the two wear ankle monitoring bracelets for 90 days while prosecutors verify the information.

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