Three men convicted in 1980 Brooklyn fire exonerated

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BROOKLYN -- It took decades, but the three men who were convicted of arson and murder in a 1980 fire in Brooklyn were exonerated Wednesday.

A Brooklyn judge overturned the convictions of Amaury Villalobos, William Vasquez and Raymond Mora.

"I feel great. After all these years in prison, yeah I feel great," Villalobos said.

Mora was not in the courtroom Wednesday. He died behind bars in 1989. His widow stood before the judge instead.

"My husband is not here today to see the victory but I know he is looking down on us and I know he is resting in peace now," Janet Mora said.

William Vasquez lost his sight while in prison. "Today I feel that if I died this afternoon, I will be able to go to my tomb and rest in peace because my name has finally been cleared and justice has been done."

The men always proclaimed their innocence. They said they did not start the fire at 695 Sackett Street in Park Slope. A mother and her five children died.

They were paroled in 2012.

"We sit here today to admit that we got this case wrong," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said.

According to Thompson, the case was based on fire science that is now outdated.

As for the woman who owned the building and blamed the men for the fire, Thompson said she was a habitual liar. And before she died she admitted her story was fiction.

According to Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale of Brooklyn's Conviction Review Unit, she "...admitted to family members repeatedly that she had in fact given false testimony against these 3 defendants."

Both men said Wednesday that they are not angry. But they're ready to move on and enjoy their lives as innocent men.

"I never lost my faith because I knew I didn't commit a crime," Vasquez said.

New York Law School's Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic took this case on in 2012.

They helped prove that the fire science used to prove it was arson was no longer considered valid.

In fact, this fire may not have been arson at all, but a tragic accident.