A Bronx teenager who was detained on Rikers Island for over a year without a trial had the charges against him dropped on Wednesday.
Pedro Hernandez was arrested in July of 2016 in relation to a shooting he maintains he had nothing to do with. He was held on a $250,000 bond that his family could not pay and he refused a plea deal, so he remained in custody until July of 2017, when the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization paid his bail.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark announced she was dismissing the charges against Hernandez on Wednesday morning, shortly before his trial was to commence. Clark said that a review of the case by members of her staff, senior trial attorneys and a veteran prosecutor revealed critical problems with witness accounts.
“We discovered unanticipated witness and evidentiary issues, including that one of the original witnesses is no longer cooperative,” Clark told NBC New York. “The investigation also revealed that information originally provided to my office during the initial investigation of this case has now proven to be inconsistent and contradictory. Further, the victim of the shooting is unable to identify who shot him.”
Last month, two men accused Clark’s office of pressuring them to provide false testimony in more than 24 cases, including Hernandez’s. One of the men, William Stevens, said he was beaten until he identified Hernandez as the shooter. Two lawsuits for intimidation and excessive force have been filed against a detective involved in Hernandez’s case.
News of Hernandez’s unlawful detention garnered worldwide media attention two years after the suicide of Kalief Browder, who was similarly detained for three years on Rikers Island before the charges were later dismissed.