NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two men who spent 16 years in prison for a New York City double murder they did not commit accepted a $9 million settlement on Thursday for their wrongful convictions.
Danny Colon, 50, and Anthony Ortiz, 44, were arrested in 1990 and charged with a drive-by shooting on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that killed two men and wounded two others.
In their 1993 trial, prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Anibal Vera, a drug addict and friend of Colon’s who testified that Colon and Ortiz committed the crime.
In 2009, New York state’s highest court ruled that the prosecutor misled the jury and improperly withheld information from defense lawyers. The court said Vera had been given leniency by prosecutors in a separate case.
The case against Colon and Ortiz was dismissed in 2011.
The pair sued New York City, the state and the New York City Housing Authority, all of which are contributing to the settlement. The murders took place at a city housing project.
Their attorney Joel Rudin called the settlement “very reasonable.”
“The money can’t possibly make up for what they suffered,” he said.
The administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said it would review a number of wrongful conviction cases.
A $41 million settlement was recently finalized for five men who were convicted of the 1989 beating and rape of a jogger in Central Park. Their convictions were overturned.
Several other cases that have been overturned were investigated by New York Police Detective Louis Scarcella in the 1990s.
The New York Times reported that Scarcella relied on the same eyewitness, a drug-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions and delivered confessions from suspects who later denied making any admissions.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has said it would review every conviction in which Scarcella was lead investigator.
(Reporting by Sascha Brodsky; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech)