What to Know
A man in prison since 2001, convicted with a botched-robbery killing outside a strip club, will soon have his murder conviction vacated
Brooklyn DA announced that after investigation by Conviction Review Unit, he will move to vacate murder conviction against Bladimil Arroyo
The investigation found that Arroyo, 29, was deprived of a fair trial, DA Eric Gonzalez said
A man in prison since 2001, convicted with a botched-robbery killing outside a strip club, had his murder conviction vacated.
On Friday, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that following an investigation by the Conviction Review Unit, moved to vacate the murder conviction against 39-year-old Bladimil Arroyo.
When the judge announced his murder conviction was overturned, Arroyo walked over to his mom, who never gave up hope, and wiped away her tears and kissed and hugged her.
"I can't explain it. It feels good," Arroyo said after the judge overturned his murder conviction.
"This is a second chance at life and I have to appreciate that, you know? I appreciate what they did," Arroyo said.
The investigation found that Arroyo was deprived of a fair trial because the only direct evidence against him consisted of a confession that included a false fact likely transmitted to him by police and certain detective notes were not disclosed to the defense, the district attorney says.
“While we cannot say that Mr. Arroyo was not involved in this crime, a thorough investigation by my Conviction Review Unit has concluded that he was deprived of a fair trial, and this undermines our confidence in his conviction,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
According to Gonzalez, on the morning of Sept.16, 2001, Gabor Muronvi, who was walking with a friend, was killed near the Sweet Cherry strip club in Sunset Park, Brooklyn during a botched robbery.
Arroyo was apprehended a short time later after police followed a car that left the crime scene, leading to him and to a co-defendant, who was injured during the confrontation with the victim and his friend, prosecutors say, adding that a doctor informed police that the victim died from a stab wound to the heart.
That day, Arroyo confessed to trying to rob the two men and to stabbing the victim “in the upper chest” during a struggle. Subsequently, he was charged that afternoon with murder and related counts. However, the next day, the Medical Examiner reported that the autopsy showed the cause of death to be a single gunshot to the chest and that the victim was not stabbed, Gonzalez said.
Arroyo’s confession was used at trial, with the prosecutor suggesting to the jury that he confessed to using a knife in an attempt to minimize his culpability in the fatal shooting, Gonzalez said. The victim’s friend, who survived the attack and initially told police there were three assailants, testified that there were only two. He did not identify Arroyo at trial.
Arroyo was ultimately convicted in November 2002 of second-degree murder, attempted robbery and assault and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. His co-defendant pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
The investigation by the CRU revealed that police accounts concerning Arroyo’s confession were “incomplete at best and misleading at worst,” Gonzalez said. The CRU also discovered that several documents were not turned over to defense and should have been.
Additionally, the CRU also found that because the crime happened a few days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, usual processes of obtaining police reports were disrupted and documents were received late and piecemeal, Gonzalez said. The investigation could not ascertain when, if at all, the non-disclosed items were received.
“Confirmation bias and nondisclosure of certain police documents led to this outcome and I am confident that policy changes that have been made over the ensuing years and additional recommendations by the CRU will ensure that these mistakes are not repeated. I remain fully committed to correcting every past injustice that took place in Brooklyn,” Gonzalez’s statement went on to say.
Arroyo is the 25th individual whose conviction has been vacated by Brooklyn’s CRU since it was established in 2014.