INNOCENT! AND NOW FREE
Lesley Risinger ’03, assisted by her husband, Professor Michael Risinger and co-counsel Barry Pollock and Alan Kaufman, obtains exoneration and release of an innocent man who served 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
Lesley Risinger ’03 was the driving force behind the exoneration of Fernando Bermudez, who was found to have been wrongfully convicted of a 1991 murder by Justice John Cataldo of the Manhattan Supreme Court on November 12. Justice Cataldo found Mr. Bermudez was actually innocent of the murder of Raymond Blount by clear and convincing evidence. In addition, Justice Cataldo found that the original conviction 18 years ago rested substantially on perjured testimony, that the prosecutor knew or should have known that the testimony was perjured, and that the four original stranger-on-stranger eyewitness identifications (which had since been withdrawn by those witnesses ) were hopelessly contaminated by the joint viewing of mugshots during the investigation of the case. Independent of the improprieties, however, Justice Cataldo found that the evidence before him, including new evidence, clearly established that Bermudez was innocent.
Ms. Risinger began work on the case in January of 2006, and was assisted throughout by her husband, Professor Michael Risinger. At the behest of the Risingers, the Innocence Project submitted an amicus brief in the case, as did Centurion Ministries.
AND NOW FREE!
After a successful application to the federal court to secure release on a relatively minor federal case from 1991 (spearheaded by co-counsel Alan Kaufman) Fernando Bermudez was set free on Friday, November 20, 2009. Professor and Lesley Risinger were there to meet him at the gates.
Since his release, The New York Times has featured the case as one which has “given hope” to the Innocence Movement— a movement which holds as a premise that actual innocence should be recognized legally as grounds for release from prison, even if the underlying conviction is found to have lacked procedural error.
In addition, Mr. & Mrs. Risinger have appeared on numerous telecasts, including ABC’s Tiempo and Evening News.