news.com.au: JONATHAN Fleming left prison with $93 in his pocket after serving 25 years for a crime he did not commit. Today, he got paid.
New York City authorities agreed on Tuesday to pay Mr Fleming $6.25 million for his wrongful imprisonment between 1989-2014.
The payout is a long way short of the $162 million he was suing the city for, but his lawyers say it will allow him to build a new life.
Fleming, 52, was convicted of the murder of Darryl Rush in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Williamsburg despite being on the other side of the country at the time.
Rush was shot and killed on August 15, 1989. Prosecutors successfully argued that the pair had a falling out and a witness identified Fleming as the shooter.
That witness would later recant her testimony and tell police she lied to get out of an unrelated arrest.
At his trial, Fleming’s defence team provided family photographs and home videos showing he was at Disney World in Florida at the time of Rush’s murder. It didn’t matter because they had no official proof.
The court was provided with plane tickets and post cards but it was agreed neither proved he was not in New York.
Fleming would spend the next 25 years in a high security prison waiting for somebody to listen to his side of the story. He missed out on his sons’ birthdays and was not there to care for his sick mother.
Then, last year, a receipt from a Florida hotel emerged. Fleming’s defence asked the District Attorney’s office to review the case one more time and showed them the receipt. It was paid five hours before the shooting by one Jonathan Fleming.
The receipt, astonishingly, had been in Mr Fleming’s pocket when he was originally arrested. Police had it in their possession the whole time.
When he was eventually released in April last year, Fleming had nowhere to live and no idea how to use a mobile phone. He was broke. But incredibly, he was not angry. And he never gave up hope.
“I had faith. I said to myself I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I’m going to get out,” Fleming told the Guardian during his first visit to Times Square in a quarter of a century.
To help him find his feet again, strangers contributed to a fundraising campaign with an initial $10,000 goal and ended up raising $49,000.
On the fundraising page, Fleming wrote that he was “terrified” and did not know how he was going to survive. But he was so thankful to everyone who had supported him, both emotionally and financially.
“I promise that I will treat this money with the respect that it deserves, and that I will forever be thankful to each and every person that took the time to help me out,” he wrote.
Fleming has money now, but he will never get back what was taken from him. And he knows it.
“I think about all the things I could have accomplished during that time and I come out to nothing.”
His lawyer Anthony Mayol said: “That’s 25 years that have been stolen, that he’ll never get back.”
Plenty changed in the years he was locked away but some things stayed the same: his mother was still waiting for him with open arms.
“After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said in court.
Fleming’s case is not unique. His wrongful imprisonment is not the longest in US history either.
James Bain spent 35 years in prison for a kidnapping and rape in 1974 that he did not commit. He received just $1.7 million compensation — $50,000 for every year he spent in prison.
Ricky Jackson spent 39 years behind bars for the murder of businessman Harold Franks. He received just $2 million plus 39 years worth of wages.