Innocence Prevails: Eric Smokes and David Warren Exonerated After 37 Years Behind Bars

Eric Smokes and David Warren, who were wrongfully convicted of a Times Square murder 37 years ago, have finally been exonerated. The Manhattan Supreme Court judge, Stephen Antignani, declared their innocence, stating that they were “not criminals” and that they were “free to go as innocent men.”

Smokes, now 56, and Warren, 53, have steadfastly maintained their innocence since the day they were accused. On New Year’s Eve 1986, the teenagers had taken the subway from their homes in East New York to join the festivities in Times Square. However, a tragic incident unfolded outside Ben Benson’s steakhouse, where 71-year-old tourist Jean Casse was assaulted and robbed by a group of young men. Casse suffered fatal injuries, and Smokes and Warren were wrongfully implicated in the crime.

Their alibi, supported by their friends, was disregarded, and they were charged with murder. Witnesses later revealed that they had been coerced by NYPD detectives and prosecutors to falsely implicate Smokes and Warren. The duo was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to prison.

Years later, in 2005, Smokes received an apology letter from the prosecution’s key witness, who admitted to fabricating his testimony to secure leniency in an unrelated case. This revelation sparked a renewed effort to clear their names. Their lawyer, James Henning, presented newly discovered evidence to the Justice Unit, headed by Terri Rosenblatt, which pointed to investigative misconduct and the mishandling of crucial information.

In a surprising turn of events, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office requested the dismissal of the indictment, and Judge Antignani agreed. Smokes and Warren, now free men, plan to file a lawsuit detailing the investigative misconduct and the immense toll their wrongful conviction took on their lives.

During the court hearing, Judge Antignani acknowledged the loss of Warren’s wife, Kim, who had passed away in October 2022. He expressed his belief that she was present in spirit, acknowledging the pain and anger the men must have endured throughout their ordeal.

While the exoneration cannot undo the years lost behind bars, Smokes’ son Kareem, who vividly remembers visiting his father in prison as a child, expressed relief that justice has finally been served. Warren’s daughter, Kali, born after his release, expressed pride in her father’s resilience and gratitude for the support they received.

The harrowing journey of Eric Smokes and David Warren serves as a stark reminder of the flaws within the criminal justice system. Their story highlights the importance of relentless pursuit of truth and justice, and the need for reforms to prevent such wrongful convictions from happening again.



Author: CrimeDoor

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