BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- A man in prison for a 2001 murder outside a Brooklyn strip club had his conviction vacated Friday because the confession used in his trial did not match the facts of the case.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that following a thorough investigation by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU), he would move to vacate the conviction of 39-year-old Bladimil Arroyo.
The investigation found that Arroyo was deprived of a fair trial because the only direct evidence against him consisted of a confession that included a false fact likely transmitted to him by police -- that the victim was stabbed rather than shot -- and certain detective notes were not disclosed to the defense.
"Police accounts concerning Arroyo's confession, which was false in regard to the murder weapon, were incomplete at best and misleading at worst because they did not explain how Arroyo came to describe erroneous facts that police believed to be true at the time," the DA's Office said in a statement.
Bladimil Arroyo had been in custody since 2001 for a homicide outside of a strip club in Sunset Park.
He woke up Friday in state prison, but after the vacate proceeding, he walked out of court a free man.
"Feels good, just feels good," Arroyo said after the hearing. "This is a second chance at life, and I have to appreciate that. I appreciate what they did, otherwise it wouldn't have worked out like that."
His mother, Milagros Motalvo, was overwhelmed.
"I got my son back," she said. "That's it. I need him."
Arroyo is the 25th individual whose conviction has been vacated by Brooklyn's CRU since it was established in 2014.
"While we cannot say that Mr. Arroyo was not involved in this crime, a thorough investigation by my Conviction Review Unit has concluded that he was deprived of a fair trial, and this undermines our confidence in his conviction," Gonzalez said. "Confirmation bias and nondisclosure of certain police documents led to this outcome, and I am confident that policy changes that have been made over the ensuing years and additional recommendations by the CRU will ensure that these mistakes are not repeated."
Arroyo said he never lost hope.
"Just hope, just hope," he said. "My mother, she was by my side the whole time."
According to Gonzalez, in the early morning hours of September 16, 2001, Gabor Muronvi, who was walking with a friend, was killed near the Sweet Cherry strip club during a botched robbery. Arroyo was apprehended a short time later after police followed a car that left the crime scene, leading to him and to a co-defendant who was injured during the confrontation with the victim and his friend.
A doctor informed police that the victim died from a stab wound to the heart.
Later that day, Arroyo confessed to trying to rob the two men and to stabbing the victim "in the upper chest" during a struggle. He was charged that afternoon with murder and related counts.
The next day, the Medical Examiner reported that the autopsy showed the cause of death to be a single gunshot to the chest and that the victim was not stabbed.
The case proceeded, and Arroyo's confession was used at trial, with the prosecutor suggesting to the jury that the defendant confessed to using a knife in an attempt to minimize his culpability in the fatal shooting.
The victim's friend, who survived the attack and initially told police there were three assailants, testified that there were only two. He did not identify Arroyo at trial.
Arroyo was convicted in November 2002 of second-degree murder, attempted robbery and assault. He was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
His co-defendant pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
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Conviction overturned for man in 2001 Brooklyn strip club murder