courthouse.jpgOn November 23, 1990 a bouncer outside of the Palladium nightclub (now an NYU dorm on 14th St.) was shot and killed when a fistfight escalated to gunplay. A year later, David Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo were convicted of the killing and sent to prison, despite their defense that they were not even at the Palladium that night. Hidalgo's conviction was later overturned and Lemus was released from prison after 14 years, only to face a retrial by New York prosecutors. The New York Times is now reporting, however, that a former prosecutor for the city who was arguing for that retrial had serious doubts about the man's guilt even as he argued for his prosecution.

Doubts regarding Lemus and Hidalgo's guilt first arose [Times Select article] a few years after their conviction for the killing of bouncer Marcus Peterson, when a federal prosecutor and a police detective investigating a South Bronx drug gang elicited a confession from one of its members that he and another man were responsible for the Palladium killing. The prosecutor, Steven Cohen, and the detective, Robert Addolorato then spent years trying to free the two men they felt had been wrongly convicted.

Lemus was eventually freed from prison in late 2005, after the New York State Supreme Court overturned his conviction. Hidalgo's conviction had been overturned earlier, but he was deported on an unrelated gun charge. New York prosecutors persisted though, and Lemus was released on a $100,000 bond as the district attorney's office said that it intended to retry him. Two years later, Lemus's lawyers are asking for a dismissal based on the admission that one of the prosecutors arguing for the man's retrial didn't even believe that Lemus was guilty.

In a television interview, Daniel Bibb, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, said that he believed the defendant, David Lemus, was the wrong man, even while he was arguing in court to sustain the conviction, according to court papers filed last week in Manhattan.

Mr. Bibb said he “began to have serious doubts” about the guilt of Mr. Lemus and a co-defendant, Olmedo Hidalgo, in the spring of 2004.

For some perspective on how long David Lemus has been wrongfully accused and jailed for the killing of Marcus Peterson, Law & Order had just premiered in 1990 when the Palladium bouncer was shot and killed, and NYU students that live in the dorm that replaced the club were still years from kindergarten at the time of the murder.

(NYC - New York County Supreme Courthouse, by wallyg at flickr)