Man falsely imprisoned for 18 years files suit against city and state of NY

Fernando Bermudez, imprisoned from age 22 to 40 for murder, freed after judge finds prosecutorial misconduct

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New York, NY (February 22, 2011) – On February 3, 2011, Mr. Bermudez, through the Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff, filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York setting forth allegations of widespread misconduct and gross negligence within the New York County District Attorney’s Office. The D.A.’s Office, in conjunction with detectives in the 6th Precinct in Manhattan, prosecuted a murder case that landed an innocent young man in jail for over 18 years.

On August 4, 1991, Raymond Blount was shot to death after an altercation which started in a Manhattan nightclub. After a series of events, including a failure to investigate obvious leads, intense witness coercion, failure to turn over exculpatory documents to defense attorneys, and false testimony by detectives and an assistant district attorney, Fernando Bermudez, then 22, was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison.

In November 2009, Justice John Cataldo overturned Mr. Bermudez’s conviction and dismissed the charges altogether. In his 79-page decision, Justice Cataldo ruled that Mr. Bermudez’s rights were violated due to police misconduct in eliciting the killer’s identification through photographs and a lineup. Judge Cataldo scolded the prosecution for failing to recognize that one of their key witnesses, Efraim Lopez, was giving false testimony.

One year after Mr. Bermudez’s 1992 conviction, five witnesses used by the prosecution at trial recanted their testimony, stating that they had been coerced and manipulated by the police and prosecutors to assist in wrongfully convicting Mr. Bermudez.

Despite this information and the complete lack of any physical forensic evidence linking Mr. Bermudez to the murder, the prosecution refused to change their position. No fingerprints were ever found that corresponded to those of Mr. Bermudez; no gun was found; nor any clothes matching the witnesses’ descriptions, specifically, no “Gucci” link with large medallion, which was also described by all witnesses. The only alleged association between Mr. Bermudez and the murder were the witnesses who recanted their coerced testimony. None of these witnesses ever knew Mr. Bermudez.

Mr. Bermudez was forced to fight through 11 different appeals over a period of 18 years before his conviction was finally overturned.

In his decision, Judge Cataldo stated succinctly “I find, by clear and convincing evidence, that Fernando Bermudez has demonstrated he is innocent of this crime.”

Based in part on Judge Cataldo’s findings, Mr. Bermudez is now seeking to be compensated for spending 18 years behind bars during the prime of his life.