Five Innocent People Convicted of Murder

Eric Glisson released after 17 years in prison for crime he didn’t commit.

We all have heard prisoners say they didn’t do the crime, that they are imprisoned for, but in the case of Eric Glisson he was telling the truth. It took 17 years before his innocence was proved, but he is a free man today after being imprisoned in Sing Sing Prison.

A livery cab driver Baithe Diop had been killed on August 19,1995, and a few weeks later a lady Miriam Tavares told the police she knew who did it. She claimed to have seen the crime from her bathroom window. Then she proceeded to name the killers, and claimed to hear their conversation, even though her bathroom window was 100 yards from the crime scene.

Sister Joanna Chan who helped Glisson procure a lawyer to prove his innocence.

Glisson and three men and a woman were sent to prison for the crime. Glisson exhausted his appeals eleven years later in 2006. Sister Joanna Chan, a Catholic nun was doing volunteer work at Sing Sing, and took an interest in Glisson’s case. She contacted Peter Cross, who was a corporate lawyer and told him about Glisson’s case. Cross took the case, even though he was not a criminal lawyer, and agreed to not charge Glisson.

Attorney Peter Cross and Eric Glisson

Cross went to the bathroom window, that the lady claimed to have seen the crime from, and there was no way she could have seen the crime scene from that window, since it was not in the line of sight. The detectives working the case had never taken the trouble, to see what they could see from that window.

Glisson mentioned on the Dateline broadcast, that this particular lady didn’t like him, so that is probably why his name was mentioned by her to the detectives. She died of a drug overdose in 2002, so she couldn’t be re-questioned about the murder.

2012 would bring Glisson the documents he had been requesting for years, due to the Freedom of Information Act. He received cell phone records which showed, that Jose Rodriguez and Jose Vega of the Bronx Sex, Money, Murder gang had placed phone calls from the cab driver’s cell phone minutes after the murder.

Then Glisson wrote a letter to the U.S. Attorney telling him he had information that proved, that he had not killed the cab driver. John O’Malley who had known that Rodriguez and Vega had confessed to the murder of the cab driver 10 years earlier traveled to Sing Sing to talk personally to Glisson.

After getting the letter, O’Malley went to Sing Sing and told Glisson he knew who really killed the Diop.

“Immediately John O’Malley just stood up and he asked me, ‘Did you write this letter?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’” Glisson told Dateline. “He shook my hand. And he said, ‘I– I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘Sorry for what?’ He says, you know, ‘I know you’re innocent.’“

“When he said that, I said, ‘You — what are you talkin’ about, sir?’ He said, ‘Listen, I know the guys who committed this crime.’

He asked Glisson if he was the one who wrote the letter, then when Glisson said yes he told Glisson, that he was innocent, and that he knew who had committed the murders. O’Malley signed an affidavit stating that Glisson was innocent.

The wheels of justice still turned slow and it was four months before the prosecutors agreed, to request the judge to set Glisson and Cathy Watkins free. Glisson was 18 when sent to prison and his daughter was a week old. Glisson was 37 when released from prison. The rest of the five prisoners wrongly arrested and imprisoned had their convictions overturned, in January of 2013 ending a nightmare for the five, who spent so many years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

Glisson returned to college and received his degree, then opened a fresh juice store named Fresh Take, which was derived from him having a fresh take on life, after being released from prison.

His story makes me wonder how many prisoners were wrongly convicted of murder, and are resigned to dying in prison. The prison system probably have a lot of Eric Glissons in prison, that are hoping that someone like Sister Joanna Chan takes an interest in their case, and contacts a lawyer that can help prove the prisoner is innocent.

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Author: Andrew Godfrey

Retired from newspaper work after 38 years. Had served in the Army in Hawaii and Vietnam in the 60's. Am now retired and living in Sulphur, Louisiana.

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