New York

I-Team: 1989 Queens Murder Case Takes Twist With Newly Found 911 Tapes

What to Know

  • Carlton Roman, 55, is serving a 43 year-to-life sentence for a March 1989 shooting in Queens in which one man died and another was injured
  • Roman has maintained his innocence since he was arrested the day after the shooting; there's been no physical evidence against him
  • Now a retired NYPD officer and reverend is investigating, and found that the district attorney's office has lost the entire file on Roman

A decades-old murder case involving a missing homicide file in Queens has taken a twist amid controversy over 911 tapes that the defense says were never turned over by the district attorney's office. 

Fifty-five-year-old Carlton Roman is serving a 43-year-to-life sentence for a double shooting in Jamaica, Queens in March 1989. One man died and another was seriously wounded.

Roman, currently housed at Greenhaven Prison in Stormville, New York, has maintained his innocence from the day of his arrest, one day after the shooting. The young father had never been in jail before, never even had a parking ticket.

"I’ve been saying my entire time, since I was arrested in March 1989 to now, I have nothing to do with this,” he told the I-Team’s Sarah Wallace in an exclusive interview.

There was no physical evidence against Roman or his co-defendant Hollis Laylor, who was tried separately and freed after two hung juries. Two men who claimed to have been inside a home when gunfire erupted were the only prosecution witnesses.

A few years ago, a retired NYPD officer who traded in his badge for a Bible and a private investigator’s license, took on the Roman cause. Rev. Robert Dickerson said he found his calling trying to free Roman.

"This man is wrongfully convicted. I feel for this case. I was a cop and locked people up, but this is a travesty of justice," he said.

Dickerson said he asked the DA’s office for Roman’s file a few years ago and was later told it had been lost. 

"I was stunned," he said. "It’s beyond me how you could lose a homicide file and everything in it."

Dickerson and his partner, private investigator Dan Levine, said they asked for the Laylor file. In it was a disc containing 911 calls from several witnesses who said they were on the block at the time of the double shooting. There were no police interviews of any of those witnesses in the Laylor file.

Dickerson said the 911 calls contradict the timeline the prosecution gave for the shooting and where it took place. 

Both Roman and Laylor said they were unaware the tapes existed. 

"I was flabbergasted," said Roman. "I had zero idea there were 911 tapes connected to my case."

Prosecutors are required by law to turn over any evidence favorable to a defendant.

The district attorney's office declined to comment on the tapes. A spokesman confirmed the homicide file had been lost but had no explanation how that happened. 

Roman’s attorney, Pierre Sussman, has filed a motion asking for the conviction to be overturned. The DA’s office has not responded to the motion.

Both sides are due back in court on Feb. 23.

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