Seventeen years after a man was convicted of murdering a police officer, his family is demanding a new trial, alleging that the Manhattan district attorney’s office purposely withheld evidence.
Jon Adrian Velazquez has been serving time in prison for the killing of retired NYPD officer Alfred Ward in 1998.
On Tuesday, Velazquez’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, filed a motion asking for a new trial. He cited information from a police report, as well as a detective interview of an important witness. He believes the evidence could have proven Velazquez’s innocence had it been released at the original trial.
“What Mr. Velazquez did not know is that he had been victimized by a prosecutor who deliberately withheld significant information that our United States constitution requires be disclosed,” Gottlieb said.
A statement from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office refuted any accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
“The suggestion that this office concealed any information is false. The existence of the police report in question was disclosed to the defendant’s legal team in 1999 prior to the trial,” the statement read.
According to the DA’s office, the police report was not only made available for the original trial in 1999, but also in 2013, when they looked into the possibility of a wrongful conviction. The DA, along with multiple courts that had previously heard the case, ultimately determined Velazquez’s conviction should stand.
During the 1999 trial, Velazquez had a co-defendant, Derry Daniels, who pleaded guilty to the murder. In a police report, Derry’s father had described seeing a man with features similar to Velazquez’s with his son before the murder.
A sketch was drawn up based on witness descriptions of the gunman—a light-skinned black man with cornrows. Velazquez is Latino, but did not have any braids.
“(Derry’s father) had observed his son Derry just a few hours before the murder hanging out with a man matching exactly the physical description of the shooter,” Gottlieb said.
Velazquez’s mother, Maria, continues to insist on her son’s innocence. “I know for a fact because he was on the telephone with me—and I testified. I was his alibi,” she said.
Velazquez called her from prison after the hearing and said that he is hopeful.
“It’s just ridiculous how we continue to go through this. We continue to unveil this evidence and show beyond a doubt that I’m an innocent man,” Velazquez said.
Actress Alfrie Woodward is among the handful of celebrities who have joined his mother to publicly call for his conviction to be overturned.
“I will never, never stop the fight. I will keep coming back again and again and again until he is free,” Maria said.