By Ariana Costakes
2009 exoneree Fernando Bermudez is profiled in a new book
Why Go On: Connecticut Residents Bring Dark Days to Light
by Lisa Wright. The book features 20 profiles of individuals who overcame life-changing ordeals to discover new hope and inspiration.
Chapter one is the story of how Bermudez became embroiled in a murder investigation when his photo was mistakenly placed in a felony line-up. Despite being physically distinctive from the actual perpetrator of the shooting, Bermudez was implicated by five witnesses, many of whom testified in exchange for deals in their own criminal cases. Although there was no physical evidence linking Bermudez to the case, he was found guilty and convicted to 22 years in prison in 1992. The following year, all five witnesses signed sworn statements recanting their testimonies, but Bermudez’s appeals were repeatedly denied.
In prison, Bermudez made the best of his situation by educating himself, teaching classes, working out and planning for the future with his wife Crystal. He made money to provide for their three children by selling clothing to other inmates.
“All of that was woven into the fight to prove my innocence – which was in itself a challenge and a motivation to keep me going,” Bermudez told Wright. “Every day there was a distraction with that. That helped kill the time in a good way, rather than waste it.”
In 2009, Bermudez’s appeal was overseen by a different judge, who overturned his conviction on the basis of actual innocence on November 12. After 18 years in prison, he was finally a free man.
Wright notes that in 2013, Connecticut was among the states with the highest number of exonerations in the country. Bermudez told Wright that reforms must begin from the top.
“What would help change the system would be holding prosecutors accountable,” Bermudez told Wright. “Prosecutors get immunity and aren’t held accountable even when it’s proven that they have something directly to do with a wrongful conviction. That allows them to not feel a deterrent effect and continue to do whatever they want to do, knowing they can’t be held liable, criminally prosecuted, sued and so forth.”
To purchase a signed copy of
Why Go on