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2 Men Go Free 30 Years After Wrongful Convictions

Carlton Roman, Christopher Ellis were released this week in New York City
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2021 1:43 PM CDT
2 Men Had Alibis. Both Were Jailed 30 Years for Murder
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/oneword)

(Newser) – Two Black men from New York City who each spent more than 30 years in prison for murder were freed Monday after state judges found their convictions were unjust. "I'm not the only innocent person in there," Carlton Roman said, per the New York Times, following his exoneration during a hearing at Queens Supreme Court. A college graduate with no criminal record, Roman was convicted of shooting two men, one fatally, in Queens in 1989 in a drug dispute. There was no forensic evidence, and Roman's then-fiancee said he'd been running errands with her at the time. But two eyewitnesses—whom Roman's lawyer claims were involved in the drug trade—blamed the 26-year-old. Thirty years later, one of them recanted, saying Roman wasn't at the crime scene at all. The Queens Conviction Integrity Unit ultimately found the man had told six different versions of events, per KABC.

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Similarly, Christopher Ellis' conviction for fatally shooting a man in Hempstead, NY, in 1990, when he was only 20, was vacated last month after his lawyer argued police failed to inform defense lawyers and prosecutors about multiple suspects and a witness who denied Ellis was at the crime scene. He was reportedly DJing his brother's birthday party during the shooting. Arrested in connection with an armed robbery the following year, he only confessed after an 18-hour interrogation in which he was allegedly denied food, water, and repeatedly roused from sleep. He later recanted. While Ellis' case is "appalling," the two cases together are "a terrible tragedy," Ellis' lawyer, Ilann Maazel, tells Fox News. "The police railroaded these young men and treated them as if they were nobody." Nassau County's district attorney will decide whether to retry Ellis by Sept. 20. (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)

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