DeLeon sat in his tan prison jumpsuit with his hands clenched under his chin, crying as the judge announced the conviction was getting thrown out.
The 42-year-old was convicted of killing Fausto Cordero during an attempted robbery inn 1996 while walking home with his wife and friends in Brooklyn.
However, DeLeon has maintained his innocence and claims his reported confession at the time was fabricated by former NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella and another detective.
"If you look at the words of the confession, it was police confession 101," attorney Cary London said. "'I was in the vicinity of 161 Franklin for the sole purpose of robbing a male Hispanic. There was a struggle over the gun and the victim was accidentally shot.' What defendant uses the words 'vicinity,' 'male Hispanic,' and 'victim'? None. That is cop lingo when they're falsifying a confession."
Even though his conviction was overturned, the judge ordered a $100,000 bond that his attorney says his family posted Tuesday.
He held his baby niece for the very first time after court.
"I'm probably going to take the little baby and hold her some more," he said.
This is what freedom looks like. 42-year-old Eliseo DeLeon out after 23 years behind bars. Judge tossed 1996 Brooklyn murder conviction based on confession coerced by former NYPD Det Scarcella. More than dozen convictions involving Scarcella tossed over troubling policing tactics pic.twitter.com/4rT2OV2zrK— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) November 19, 2019
The indictment in the case is still open, and prosecutors could decide to retry the case.
A spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office said they don't believe DeLeon established his innocence but wouldn't comment on whether they will be seeking a retrial.
"We do not believe that the defendant established his innocence at the hearing and are confident we will prevail at an appeal or a potential retrial," the spokesperson said. "The defendant was identified by multiple witnesses who never recanted and he admitted his guilt on multiple occasions. However, we consented to his release on bail because he has served the majority of his sentence."
Scarcella, who retired in 1999 after 26 years as a police officer, has steadfastly stood by his work and has maintained he never fabricated a confession in his life.
But since then, the Brooklyn DA's Office has asked judges eight times to reverse guilty verdicts that Scarcella helped to obtain.
Several other people imprisoned for crimes Scarcella investigated have been released by judges after hearings.
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