Judge Orders Release of Two New York Women
More than eight years after being wrongly convicted of a shooting crime that put a man in a coma, two New York women were released from prison last week.
New York Times
reported that Bronx prosecutors agreed with defense attorneys for Latisha Johnson and Malisha Blyden that both women are innocent.
Johnson and Blyden were convicted as a result of multiple errors made during the investigation of the 2005 shooting and robbery of George Peseo. He had picked up two women — neither Johnson nor Blyden — on the street and had them over to his Bronx apartment two days in a row. On a third visit, the women were accompanied by several men who pushed their way into the home and duct-taped Peseo before shooting him twice in the stomach.
Peseo was hospitalized and in a coma for three weeks following the shooting. Almost immediately upon his awakening, detectives asked Peseo to look at his cell phone records because the perpetrators had used his phone during their second visit to his home. Peseo identified an unfamiliar number from the record, one that would later be revealed to be a simple misdial by Peseo, but that detectives used at the time as evidence to lead them to the female perpetrators. The number was traced back to Johnson’s father.
Investigators showed Peseo a photo array containing Johnson’s picture. Peseo selected Johnson as one of the women who had visited his apartment. A warrant was put out for Johnson’s arrest. Shortly after, Johnson and Blyden were escorted off of a train for playing loud music. Blyden resembled the victim’s description of the accomplice, so both women were taken into custody.
An almost 24-hour unrecorded interrogation was followed by a false confession full of inaccuracies, signed by Johnson. Detectives also showed the womens’ pictures to neighbors who witnessed the crime, only the photos were not in an array, making the identification process blatantly suggestive, but allowed into court anyway.
The women were convicted and sentenced to 40-year prison terms, but the case was turned over to the Office of the Appellate Defender, where it was flagged for special attention. It was then that a team of lawyers and investigators finally uncovered what really happened the night Paseo was attacked.
According to Anastasia Heeger, the director of the Reinvestigation Project in the Office of the Appellate Office, while Johnson and Blyden were under indictment, four men were arrested in another shooting case and ultimately pleaded guilty to the shooting robbery of Peseo. The men were unknown to Johnson and Blyden. Further investigation led finding one of the female accomplices.
Once this evidence was presented to the Bronx district attorney’s office, prosecutors quickly agreed that the convictions should be vacated. Better detective work and proper procedures for witness identification and custodial interrogations could have prevented the entire situation.
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