NEW YORK — A New York City man who has been fighting to get a murder conviction, over two decades old, overturned has will remain in prison.
A judge ruled Thursday that Nelson Cruz would not be exonerated for the 1998 death of Trevor Vieira in East New York, Brooklyn.
Cruz’s legal team was in shock and in tears.
“I just want my family together,” said Sarayah Cruz, Nelson’s stepdaughter.
In a strange turn of events, after the defense pushed back at the ruling, the judge walked out of the courtroom. When she returned in over an hour, she maintained her stance that Cruz should serve out the remainder of his sentence.
“This decision was extremely difficult,” State Supreme Court Justice ShawnDya Simpson said.
Court documents state two cops witnessed another man firing a gun, but Cruz, who was 17 at the time, was convicted for the crime with just one eyewitness.
Cruz has insisted he was not at the scene when the incident happened and has fought to have the murder conviction overturned.
Cruz’s lawyers argue that retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella, a cop who built a reputation for obtaining convictions in difficult cases in the 1980s and ‘90s, forced a confession from Cruz despite his innocence.
Scarcella said he no longer remembers details on much of the 1998 case when he testified in court in March.
Former Detective Stephen Chmil, who worked about 100 cases with Scarcella, testified in the case, saying he “absolutely” stood by all the investigations he did with Scarcella, but more than a dozen of the men they helped put in prison for murders have been exonerated.