- A Queens court dropped charges Friday against George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt
- The three were wrongfully convicted on a double murder from 1996 and spent nearly 25 years in prison
- The judges said prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that could have acquitted the three
A Queens, New York court dropped all charges Friday against three men wrongfully convicted for the double murder of an NYPD officer and businessowner in 1996.
George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt spent nearly 25 years in prison before they were released from the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville on March 5 after a judge dismissed their convictions due to prosecutorial misconduct, WABC reported.
The three were linked to the deaths of Ira "Mike" Epstein and off-duty police detective Charles Davis, who were both shot and killed during a botched robbery attempt on Dec. 22, 1996.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said she agreed to vacate the convictions because prosecutors failed to disclose police reports and information about key witnesses.
"Within a few months of our clients having been arrested, after a five-day investigation on a double homicide and no forensics, within days, there was evidence that someone else committed this crime," defense attorney Rita Dave said.
Dave pointed out that the police reports and all the documents gathered from the investigation were withheld from the three men.
"It's not a mistake. They knew exactly what they were doing beforehand," attorney Marc Wolinsky was quoted as saying by WFSB. "They had all the documents to display exactly what they just uncovered," he said.
The case has now been handed over to the district's cold case unit.
The three men reacted differently over the dismissal of the charges.
Bolt, now 59, said he was "bitter" about the wrongful convictions but noted that "you got to move forward."
Johnson, for his part, said he was "ecstatic" over the court's decision. "I'm just feeling good. Justice finally prevailed," the 46-year-old said.
Bell, now 44, was quoted by WABC as saying, "For me, coming out of here, holding on to anger. I'm upset, don't get it twisted. I'm upset, of course I'm angry. I'm angry for what they did to my family, what we went through. But you cannot go through life holding onto that, because how can you move forward if you're holding on to something that going to cause resentment? This right here is a blessing. This is not resentment."