As a controversial retrial looms for David Lemus, a man who served 15 years in prison before having his murder conviction overturned in 2005, NBC News' Peacock Productions presents its first feature length documentary film about his case, "In the Shadow of Justice." The two-hour broadcast, airing on Sunday, Aug. 5 (7:00 p.m. ET), advances Dateline's groundbreaking 2005 investigative report on the 1990 murder of Palladium nightclub bouncer, Marcus Peterson, and immerses viewers in a case that made headlines as it unfolded.
While The Manhattan District Attorney's office insists Lemus is guilty of the murder, and is retrying him, they declined to comment on the film. However, the 23-year veteran Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bibb who argued at a hearing to keep Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo (the other man convicted in the murder) in prison is now speaking out for the first time in the film. He says as he led a re-investigation of the case, he became convinced the men were innocent. He has since left the DA's office, saying he was tortured by the fact that his superiors, in his account, forced him to argue to keep two innocent men in prison.
Bibb says, "The people making the decisions (within the DAs office) wanted to go to the hearing." When pressed specifically about District Attorney Morganthau's involvement in the decision-making process, Bibb replies, "...He was aware of what was going on."
NBC's interest in the case began in 2002 when Dateline producers were granted rare access to Bronx homicide detectives Bobby Addolorato and John Schwartz as they re-investigated the case. Our cameras were rolling as the detectives discovered astonishing new evidence suggesting that Lemus and Hidalgo might actually be innocent. The detectives also believe they uncovered documents that suggest the DA's office buried evidence that proved Lemus and Hidalgo were innocent.
After the Dateline report aired, not only were the two men exonerated and able to go home to live with their families for the first time in 15 years, but weeks later a man who many believed to be the real shooter was arrested. The man, Thomas "Spanky" Morales, had appeared in the broadcast after NBC producers tracked him down. "Spanky," who spent nearly 18 months in jail awaiting trial for this murder, is now a free man after a judge threw out his case saying law enforcement had the obligation to arrest him years ago based on the ample evidence it possessed pointing to him as the shooter.
In the end, "In the Shadow of Justice" documents how the case changed many lives forever. For detectives Addolorato and Schwartz, it was a journey of conscience and confrontation that they say ended their careers. The film includes exclusive interviews with defendants Lemus and Hildago, eyewitnesses to the crime, family members, attorneys, the foreperson of the jury, Carol Kramer, who voted to convict the men and then asked for their release, and Thomas "Spanky" Morales.
David Corvo is the executive producer; Adam Gorfain is the senior producer; Daniel Slepian is the producer; Michael Nardi is the field producer; and Robert O. Allen is the editor.