Court Throws Out Conviction of Man Imprisoned for 18 Years

By Andrew Siff
|  Thursday, Nov 12, 2009  |  Updated 8:20 PM EDT
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Court Throws Out Conviction of Man Imprisoned for 18 Years

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Fernando Bermudez

He spent 18 years in prison for a murder he's always said he didn't commit.

Finally, a judge believed Fernando Bermudez.

Judge John Cataldo, tossed out the murder conviction and said Bermudez had demonstrated his "actual innocence."

And Thursday night, Bermudez' family held a big celebration in his honor.

Bermudez was convicted for the Aug. 4, 1991 fatal shooting of 16-year-old Raymond Blount at the Marc Ballroom, a long-since-closed club on Union Square West between 15th and 16th Streets.
    
Five witnesses had identified Bermudez as the killer after identifying a photograph. But all of the witnesses have long since recanted, saying their testimony was false.

Bermudez had also always maintained he was not at the scene.  No other evidence -- not a gun, a fingerprint or a clear motive -- tied him to the crime. 

"This is the best day of my life," said Bermudez' mother, Daniela. She clinked glasses with her husband, a retired parking lot attendant, at their Inwood home.

The wrongfully imprisoned man's wife, Crystal, and two of their three kids also attended the party.

"The celebration is overwhelming," said Crystal. "I can't even express my joy."

The 40-year-old Bermudez  remains behind bars for now because of an unrelated federal drug-sale conviction that carried a 27-month sentence. His lawyers plan to ask federal authorities to credit him for the time he has served and release him.

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