NEW YORK (AP) — From the day of his 1989 arrest in a deadly New York City shooting, Jonathan Fleming said he had been more than 1,000 miles away, on a vacation at Disney World. Despite having documents to back him up, he was convicted of murder.

Prosecutors now agree with him, and Fleming left a Brooklyn court as a free man Tuesday after spending nearly a quarter-century behind bars.

Fleming, now 51, tearfully hugged his lawyers as relatives cheered, “Thank you, God!” after a judge dismissed the case. A key eyewitness had recanted, newly found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors’ review of authorities’ files turned up documents supporting Fleming’s alibi.

“After 25 years, come hug your mother,” Patricia Fleming said, and her only child did.

“I feel wonderful,” he said afterward. “I’ve always had faith. I knew that this day would come someday.”

The exoneration, first reported by the Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions, scrutiny that comes partly from the new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson. He said in a statement that after a months-long review, he decided to drop the case against Fleming because of “key alibi facts that place Fleming in Florida at the time of the murder.”

From the start, Fleming told authorities he had been in Orlando when a friend, Darryl “Black” Rush, was shot to death in Brooklyn early on Aug. 15, 1989. Authorities suggested the shooting was motivated by a dispute over money.

Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, said his lawyers, Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss. But prosecutors at the time suggested he could have made a quick round-trip plane jaunt to be in New York, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and was due to have his first parole hearing soon.

The eyewitness 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 defense asked the district attorney’s office to review the case last year.

Defense investigators found previously untapped witnesses who pointed to someone else as the gunman, the attorneys said, declining to give the witnesses’ or potential suspect’s names before prosecutors look into them. The district attorney’s office declined to comment on its investigative plans.

Prosecutors’ review produced a hotel receipt that Fleming paid in Florida about five hours before the shooting — a document that police evidently had found in Fleming’s pocket when they arrested him. Prosecutors also found an October 1989 Orlando police letter to New York detectives, saying some employees at an Orlando hotel had told investigators they remembered Fleming.

Neither the receipt nor the police letter had been provided to Fleming’s initial defense lawyer, despite rules that generally require investigators to turn over possibly exculpatory material.

Patricia Fleming, 71, was with her son in Orlando at the time of the crime and testified at his trial.

“I knew he didn’t do it, because I was there,” she said. “When they gave my son 25 to life, I thought I would die in that courtroom.”

Still, she said, “I never did give up, because I knew he was innocent.”

Thompson took office in January, after unseating longtime District Attorney Charles “Joe” Hynes with a campaign that focused partly on questionable convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

Thompson has agreed to dismiss the murder convictions of two men who spent more than 20 years in prison for a triple homicide. He also dropped his predecessor’s appeal challenging the 2013 release of another man who had served 22 years in prison on a questioned murder conviction.

On Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming left court with an arm around his mother’s shoulders and the process of rebuilding his life ahead of him.

Asked about his plans, he said: “I’m going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I’m going to live the rest of my life.”

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(Photo: Associated Press)

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9 thoughts on “NY Man Proves He’s At Disney World During Murder, Exonerated 25 Years Later

  1. bridget scott on said:

    People the justice system is not for us. this man lost twenty years or more of his life on a lie. He will never be the same. he had proof, eyewitness, and was1000 miles away from the crime. Will he be compensated maybe. its sad that this man had to serve time for a little white lie. What is proof in the justice system when the odds are already against the race of colored. mind u this have been going on for years.

  2. I just want to send my heartfelt apologies and support to the family. I’m speechless! I pray that Mr. Fleming can find some peace after 25 years in prison for something he DID NOT DO (not sure how). I do know being with his family and “true” friends will make life a little easier now that he has awaken from this terrible nightmare. SMH continuously… To God Be the Glory!

  3. RENO2AC on said:

    What????? Jiggy5, you don’t have a comment about THIS????? HUH??????? Mac Ben????? Where “y’all” at!??!!?!?!?

  4. redbone1954 on said:

    Are you serioous right now?????? Pictures videos plane tickets and the prosecutors were able to say he could have gotten a ticket back from Florida to new york to commit this crime? And some stupid jurors beleived this mess? I am speechless. Did they find his name on any flight information doing that? this is makingg me sick to my sromach America we keeps saying this is the only system we have but clearly it needs to be changed in some way shape form or fashion. Dang!!! SMH

  5. I said it. on said:

    This is another example of why we can’t let bigots beat us down and make us believe the hype with crime statistics. We will never know how many people have been wrongly convicted. The justice system can be very unjust? By the way, who runs the justice system? I wonder if and when this man will be compensated and if the people who withheld evidence will be prosecuted. Did they not withhold evidence?

  6. I said it. on said:

    This is another example of why we can’t let bigots beat us down and make us believe the hype with crime statistics. We will never know how many people have been wrongly convicted. The justice system can be very unjust? By the way, who runs the justice system? I wonder if and when this man will be compensated and if the people who withheld evidence will be prosecuted. Did they not withhold evidence

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