US man jailed using false photo freed after 18 years
March 10, 2023 04:03 PM
A New York man who spent more than 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit was freed from jail Thursday after prosecutors said a photo of another person with the same name led to his wrongful arrest.
Sheldon Thomas was convicted over the 2004 fatal drive-by shooting in Brooklyn of 14-year-old Anderson Bercy, whose real killer remains unknown.
Thomas, now 35, walked out of court a free man Thursday after a judge approved a request by the Brooklyn District Attorney to vacate the conviction.
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, said in a statement that his office's conviction review unit found that Thomas had been intentionally misidentified by police officers.
"The defendant was arrested based on a witness identification of a different person with the same name -- a mistake that was first concealed and then explained away during the proceedings," he said.
"In fact, the reinvestigation concluded that detectives were intent on arresting the defendant and used the faulty identification procedure as pretext," Gonzalez added.
The witness identified Thomas based on a photograph of another Sheldon Thomas that police officers pulled from a police database.
Based on her misidentification, police went to the defendant's address and arrested him.
The same witness later identified Thomas in a lineup, effectively meaning she had identified two different people as the perpetrator.
Thomas was found guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
He said he forgave the detectives, witness and prosecutors and thanked the judge as he quashed his conviction, ABC News reported.
"I've waited a long time," Thomas told the court.