Investigation: Wrong man jailed

July 20, 2010 5:50:28 PM PDT
A man from Harlem who was acquitted of a murder charge is furious at the District Attorney for pursing a trial that, he claims, relied on a questionable witness.

The once accused murderer is now considering legal action against the DA.

Manhattan DA's office says it can't comment on this case because the court records have been sealed, the result of the defendant being acquitted of murder.

Eyewitness News investigated why the DA's office let a murder suspect be released on his own recognizance in the middle of a trial.

"If they can get you, they get you, any way they can," Daquan Bruce said.

Eyewitness News' Sarah Wallace spoke with Daquan Bruce on the same Harlem block where 3 1/2 years ago, an eyewitness claimed he saw the then 22-year-old college student, open fire on a minivan, killing the passenger.

That single eyewitness testimony was the only evidence of murder.

In fact, DNA from a gun recovered at the scene did not match Bruce.

The first trial ended in a mistrial.

The Manhattan DA's office decided to try again.

Last week, that sole eyewitness took the stand, and defense attorneys claim, he imploded.

"The prosecutor showed the witness a photo of someone other than my client, and the witness said, that's the shooter, that's the shooter," said Defense Attorney, Courtney Black.

After that eyewitness' "mistake" as the prosecutor called it, The DA's office agreed to release Bruce without bail on a murder case.

Keep in mind, he'd been in jail, and denied bail, for 3 1/2 years.

"They're not going to let someone out for murder unless they know they're innocent," Bruce said.

"You thought it was over," asked Sarah Wallace.

"I thought it was over, they said come back, they was gonna dismiss it," Bruce said.

But the case against Bruce wasn't dismissed.

The DA's office decided to go forward, and send the case to the jury, although it allowed the accused murderer to remain free.

"The DA's office decided to roll the dice with my client's life and risk a miscarriage of justice when their entire case was based on a single, unreliable eyewitness," Black said.

"I don't think they ever admit they made that mistake. It's not just me, it's a lot of people going through that. They just worry about convictions, these people have so much weight," Bruce said.

Monday, the jury deliberated just over four hours before acquitting Daquan Bruce of murder.

He is now a free man for the first time since April of 2007.

He says he is eternally grateful the jury saw the truth.

"I was just praying, harder than I've ever prayed in my life," Bruce said.

"And your prayers were answered," Wallace said.

"My prayers were answered," Bruce said.

Bruce's attorneys say they are now pursuing a federal civil rights case against the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Prosecutors have maintained all along that although their sole eyewitness may have made a mistake in identification, he was still completely credible.

If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates


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