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Man Cleared of NYC Murder After 25 Years in Prison

— NBC New York

A man who spent nearly a quarter century in prison for a murder he insists he did not commit went free in Brooklyn Tuesday.

Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family Tuesday. Relatives said "Thank you, God!" after he was freed.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors sought the dismissal of Fleming's conviction in the 1989 shooting of Darryl Rush. He was convicted in the killing outside a housing project on Aug. 15, 1989, but Fleming's lawyer Anthony Mayol pressed the D.A.'s office to reexamine evidence that included one witness recanting her testimony, as well as phone records that showed he was out of the state on the night of the murder.

Image: Jonathan Fleming
Jonathan Fleming, center, talks with reporters after exiting a courtroom in New York, on April 8. Fleming, who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder, was freed on Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Seth Wenig / AP

The New York Times first reported the questions in this case, including Mayol's investigators interviewing a key witness who says she lied and singled out Fleming in exchange for having felony charges against her dropped.

Questions about Fleming's conviction surfaced amid an ongoing investigation into past murder convictions in the borough. Since Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson took office in January after defeating longtime incumbent Charles Hynes, his office has been reviewing dozens of murder convictions dating back to the 1980s. During his campaign, Thompson criticized some prosecutions and the pace of review in cases where there was concern of wrongful conviction.

The Fleming case was investigated out of Brooklyn’s 90th precinct, where retired detective Louis Scarcella had worked. Dozens of cases worked by Scarcella have been reopened by the D.A.'s Conviction Integrity Unit after a high-profile 1990 murder case he investigated was thrown out.