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Three Men Freed After Decades of Being Incarcerated as a Result of Misconduct by the Prosecution

After 24 years of wrongful incarceration, Gary Johnson, 46, Rohan Bolt, 59, and George Bell, 44, were released from New York State’s Green Haven Correctional Facility after being unfairly convicted of a double murder in Queens during the 90’s.

In December of 1996, a failed armed robbery resulted in the murders of a store owner, Ira Epstein, and security guard, Charles Davis in Queens. Just three days after the homicides, Bell and Johnson were arrested due to false claims of a drug dealer, and Bolt’s detainment followed suit due to an incorrect identification of him. Bell and Johnson did not have any prior convictions, and at the time of their arrests, they were just 19 and 22 years of age. There was no physical evidence that proved any of these men were responsible for the murders, yet they were still wrongfully imprisoned for the last 24 years.

Recently, a state judge tossed out the faulty convictions of the three innocent men, and also admonished prosecutors for withholding key evidence from defense lawyers during their trials. This material could have potentially saved these men from undergoing the years of unjustified incarceration they were forced to undergo. Much of the information the district’s attorney’s office purposefully withheld during their trials proved that other suspects should have been further examined, yet prosecutors chose to conceal any evidence that could hurt their chances of convicting Johnson, Bolt, and Bell. Confessions were also allegedly extracted from the falsely convicted men through heavy coercion by law enforcement. Racial bias was also believed to be a substantial contributor to the convictions, as Johnson, Bolt, and Bell were targeted for the color of their skin.

This is just another instance of law enforcement hastily pushing the blame onto citizens in order to retrieve a quick sentence. Though these men are now freed, the grueling time they spent in jail for crimes they did not commit is another reminder that our justice system is still deeply flawed and biased. Fair treatment should be given to all suspects, and safeguards need to be placed in effect to prevent false accusations from leading to inhumane sentences.

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