A New York man who was convicted 20 years ago of murder has been freed after evidence that was never presented to aid his defense came forward.
Larry McKee, 47, was convicted of murdering Theodore Vance in 1996. A fight between Vance and another individual resulted in the other person pulling out a gun and shooting Vance.
Police arrested McKee, believing him to be the second man. But Vance’s last words suggest that police arrested the wrong man.
Vance's last words to investigators were “a Spanish guy,” implying his assailant was Hispanic. Other witnesses corroborated that account, telling police the individual who killed Vance was Hispanic.
McKee is African-American. Yet despite that evidence being presented to a grand jury, it was never given to McKee’s defense team during the criminal trial. As a result, Judge Robert Torres of the Bronx County Superior Court vacated the conviction this week, making McKee a free man.
McKee expressed mixed feelings about his new freedom.
“Satisfied but I'm not happy at all what happened,” McKee told reporters about his 20 years behind bars and eventual release. “How they knew from the beginning that they knew it wasn't me.”
Bronx County Assistant District Attorney Risa Gerson agreed.
“This was particularly disturbing,” she said. “Several other witnesses had come forward and stated that they saw a Hispanic shooter.”
McKee has every right to feel bitter about his wrongful conviction. It’s understandable that anyone who has been behind bars at all, knowing full well that they didn’t commit the crime they were charged for, would feel some sense of resenting anger toward those who put them there. One can only imagine how difficult it was for McKee to have discovered that evidence was suppressed that directly led to his conviction.
McKee’s story forces us to remember (and some of us to realize) that the justice system is not perfect. Mistakes can be made, but sometimes deliberate actions lead to unjust outcomes.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Faisal Al Nasser