Decades-Long Battle for Justice Ends as Convictions Overturned in Times Square Murder Case

The convictions of Eric Smokes and David Warren, two men who spent decades behind bars for a murder they maintained they did not commit, have been overturned. The case, which dates back to a tragic incident in Times Square on New Year’s Day in 1987, has been marred by allegations of police misconduct and witness coercion.

Jean Casse, a 71-year-old French tourist, tragically lost his life during a mugging gone wrong. The incident occurred as Casse and his wife were strolling through the bustling streets of Times Square. Casse struck his head on the pavement during the attack and was pronounced dead shortly after.

Smokes, then 19 years old, and Warren, only 16 at the time, were swiftly apprehended by the police and charged with Casse’s murder. Despite maintaining their innocence throughout the trial, both men were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Years of tireless efforts to clear their names finally paid off for Smokes and Warren, now in their 50s, as a New York City judge and Manhattan prosecutor sided with them. On Wednesday, their convictions were overturned after prosecutors revealed new evidence suggesting witness coercion by the police.

The convictions were a result of testimony from four teenage witnesses, all of whom later recanted their statements, claiming they were pressured by the police to implicate Smokes and Warren. Shockingly, some witnesses even alleged that they were threatened with arrest if they did not cooperate.

The absence of DNA evidence linking the men to the crime further raised doubts about their guilt. However, when Smokes and Warren initially brought a motion to vacate their convictions in 2017, their efforts were met with opposition from Judge Stephen Antignani and the Manhattan district attorney’s office, then led by Cyrus Vance. Assistant District Attorney Christie Keenan questioned the credibility of the recanted witness statements, leading to the denial of their motion.

It was not until a new investigation was launched in 2022, under the leadership of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, that significant new evidence came to light. Transcripts revealed the extent of the pressure exerted on the teenage witnesses by the police, and it was discovered that at least one of them was likely not even present at the scene of the crime.

Finally, with this compelling new evidence, Judge Antignani agreed to vacate the convictions, bringing an end to the decades-long battle for justice. Jay Henning, the attorney representing Smokes and Warren, expressed his clients’ relief at having their names cleared but emphasized that this decision was long overdue. He condemned the case as one marred by tunnel vision and riddled with police and prosecutorial misconduct.

The overturning of these convictions serves as a stark reminder of the importance of a fair and thorough investigation, free from coercion and bias. As Smokes and Warren step back into a world they left behind so many years ago, they can finally begin to rebuild their lives, knowing that justice has been served, albeit belatedly.


Author: CrimeDoor

1 Response

  1. This is such a powerful example of the flaws in our criminal justice system. It’s heartbreaking to think about the years of freedom that Eric Smokes and David Warren lost due to a wrongful conviction. This case highlights the urgent need for reforms to prevent innocent individuals from being incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. It also raises questions about the reliability of our justice system and the importance of ensuring fair trials and access to evidence. It’s a reminder that we must continue to fight for justice and advocate for those

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