What to Know
- A Queens man walked out of prison a free man on Thursday after a judge ruled he was wrongly convicted of a 1997 armored truck heist
- He's alleged that prosecutors cheated during his two trials — by hiding an informant's hand-written statement
- Though he's a free man, he’s not out of the legal woods
Robert Majors always insisted he did not rob an armored truck on the streets of Flushing in 1997.
It took him more than 22 years, but he finally proved to a judge that he was wrongfully convicted.
On Wednesday, Majors walked out of Green Haven Correctional Facility a free man. He promptly hugged his niece with watery eyes.
“I didn’t see any hope at the beginning but it happened,” Majors said. “There is hope.”
The prison release caps a decades-long saga, in which Majors was denied nine Freedom of Information requests, only to be handed a key piece of evidence on his tenth try. The document was a hand-written statement from a police informant who told investigators a man named “Rasheed” – not Majors – took part in the armed heist. Majors based his conviction appeal on that document – arguing police never shared it with defense team.
“The document that was withheld was clearly exculpatory,” said Thomas Hoffman, who represented Majors in his appeal. “It was a 3-page affidavit that names someone other than Mr. Majors as having committed the crime.”
Earlier this year, Queens Supreme Court Judge John Latella, tossed out Majors’ attempted murder conviction, ruling that the informant statement was never turned over in the late 1990s, thereby denying Majors his Constitutional right to a fair trial.
Surrounded by family and his attorney, Majors had his first meal as a free man at one of his favorite seafood houses, City Island Lobster House in the Bronx. The restaurant picked up the tab after the owner got word his guest had been wrongfully convicted.
“It was the right thing to do,” said restaurant owner Joe Mandarino.
Though Majors is a free man, he’s not out of the legal woods. He has to keep contact with a parole officer because his conviction for possessing illegal weapons still stands. Indeed, the possession of those weapons is how police came to believe Majors was involved in the heist.
One day after the armored truck robbery, Majors was arrested when police saw him accept a bag of guns used in the crime from his then brother-in-law, who was the mastermind of the crime. Majors has always insisted he unknowingly accepted the bag from his relative, thinking it was luggage for a train trip, and only looking inside when police approached.
In his original trial, a Queens chiropractor testified Majors was in her office shortly before the robbery. His lawyer argued there was no way he could have made it from the chiropractor’s office to the crime scene in time to take part. During his conviction appeal, Majors asked a judge for new DNA testing on evidence recovered from the robbery getaway van. The results showed a mystery-man’s DNA – not matching Majors or either of the other co-defendants.
Despite the new evidence, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz could still decide to re-try Majors on the attempted murder charge. In a week and a half, Katz’s office is scheduled to be inform the Court about whether she intends to revive the case. A spokesperson for Katz declined to comment for this article.
Majors isn’t dwelling on the possibility of another legal battle. He told the I-Team he already has several job offers and he plans to dedicate himself to re-building relationships with three daughters whose youth he mostly missed.
“I mean I can’t get back what I lost. That’s not going to happen,” Majors said.