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Jonathan Fleming Was Wrongly Incarcerated

By on April 13, 2014

Wrongfully charged. Wrongfully convicted. Sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime, he never committed in New York. That’s the life of Jonathan Fleming who was recently released without so much a formal apology or accommodations from the state of New York. And some estimate this happens to about 10,000 people a year is also alarming.

After a quarter of a century behind bars for a crime he did not commit, Jonathan Fleming looked towards his mother as family members cried out ‘thank you, God!’ as he was freed. Jonathan Fleming, who had served 24 years and 8 months of his prison sentence for the murder of Darryl “Black” Rush, was cleared of the killing.

He had been convicted of the crime, which occurred in Brooklyn, despite being on holiday at Disney World in Florida, more than 1,100 miles away.

Defence attorneys and prosecutors had asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting.

According to the famed Innocence Project, there have been 316 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 36 states; since 2000 there have been 249 exonerations. Eerily, 18 of the 314 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.  The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.

Races of the 316 exonerees:

198 African Americans
94 Caucasians
22 Latinos
2 Asian American

In the case of Fleming, a key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said. Disturbingly, the receipt had been in police possession since Fleming’s arrest.

Fleming had maintained his innocence from the beginning, telling police he was in Orlando, Florida, when a friend, Darryl “Black” Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn early on Aug. 15, 1989.

Authorities had refused to accept the explanation and had suggested the shooting was motivated by a dispute over money. Mr Fleming had supported the story that he was in Florida by presenting plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip. Authorities still refused to accept his alibi saying he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting.

An eyewitness woman had testified that she had seen him shoot Rush.

She recanted her testimony soon after Fleming’s 1990 conviction, saying she had lied so police would cut her loose for an unrelated arrest, but Fleming lost his appeals.

The defence asked the DA’s office to review the case last year. The review produced a hotel receipt paid in Florida about fiver hours before the shooting. Astonishingly the receipt was already in the possession of police – it had been in Fleming’s pocket when he was originally arrested.

Most disturbing by many familiar with the subsequent release of the wrongfully convicted man is that no one from the state prosecutors office or the state of New York has yet to even formally apologize to Mr. Fleming, his family, or offer minimal compensation for meals, accommodations, etc. since being locked up for so long.


So could this type of injustice happen to you? Wrongful convictions are becoming somewhat common, and extreme examples like Jonathan Fleming are evidence of a flawed judicial system tilted adversely for Black males. The longterm health and mental health impact for wrongful incarceration is still relatively unknown.

If someone you know needs access to correctional resources related to re-entry from incarceration, click here.


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