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On Thursday, 35-year-old Sheldon Thomas had his conviction vacated after spending 19 years in prison for a murder he did not commit thanks to a deceptive photo line-up.
Sheldon Thomas, 35, stood before a judge Thursday and had his 2004 murder conviction vacated after spending 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Thomas was convicted off of testimony from an eyewitness that was given a photo of the wrong Sheldon Thomas. Detectives used a photo of a different Sheldon Thomas from a police database. During the initial trial, the photo line-up mistake was first concealed and then explained away, according to a statement from Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.
“This is the first time in 25 years [that] I’ve seen an erroneous photo identification used as the basis for an arrest that actually went to trial,” Gonzalez said.
Conviction vacated after two decades
During the initial trial, the judge said there was still probable cause, citing that the photo resembled Thomas enough.
Thomas maintained his innocence during the trial and the entire 19 years spent imprisoned.
Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit reviewed Thomas’ case and determined that Thomas was “denied due process at every stage.”
“Each of these errors, on its own, deprived the defendant of a fair trial,” the CRU’s report concluded. “Together the errors undermined the integrity of the entire judicial process and defendant’s resulting conviction.”
“There’s so many times when I was in my cell I would think of this moment,” Thomas said during his Thursday hearing. “Right now, I’m just speechless.”
Since 2014, Brooklyn’s CRU has had 34 convictions vacated, and they currently have 50 open investigations.
Brooklyn’s CRU is similar to the work that Maryland’s State Attorney office did in 2022, when they obtained the release and vacated conviction of Adnan Syed.