Man’s Murder Conviction Overturned After 20 Years Behind Bars


A Brooklyn man who spent nearly 20 years behind bars was overcome with joy as he was released from prison Thursday, months after a judge overturned his murder conviction.

“I’m shaking,” Tasker Spruill said outside Brooklyn Supreme Court. “I give all praises to God. I don’t even feel like I can stand up right now.”

Spruill, 51, was released after posting a $200,000 bond and being outfitted with an ankle monitoring bracelet that enables him to remain free as prosecutors appeal a judge’s decision to toss his 1998 murder conviction.

“I’m so thankful. Today is a blessing in disguise,” said Spruill’s 72-year-old mother, Dolores Spruill. “I’m just thankful for everything and everybody who helped get my son out.”

Spruill suffers from a medical condition known as Neurosarcoidosis and has brain tumors that have caused him to lose his vision.

“It’s been a long time coming, my brother coming home. It’s like being reborn again,” said Spruill’s younger brother Darrell Spruill, 48. “He’s been locked up for something he didn’t do. Even with the brain tumor and all that — certain things may be limited — but at least he has his family to help him out.”

Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Evelyn La Porte authorized Spruill’s release with strict instructions that he cannot leave New York City without prosecutors’ permission.

Spruill has maintained his innocence while serving 25 years to life for the October 1993 murder of drug dealer Tracy Thomas in East New York.

After a lengthy hearing, Spruill’s attorney Rita Dave convinced Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Michael Gerstein that Spruill did not receive a fair trial because the prosecutor, Stan Irvin, withheld evidence about a key witness who could have helped the defense.

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That witness, Shawn Newton, was sitting in a car with Thomas nearby Hopkinson Ave. and McDonough St. at the time of the shooting and was the primary suspect until he pointed the finger at Spruill.

In the months leading up to Spruill’s trial, Irvin allegedly misused court orders to transport Newton, who refused to testify, back and forth from an upstate prison and Rikers to court or Irvin’s office.

That shuffling of a prisoner back and forth was known as “Bullpen Therapy” under the administration of ex-DA Charles Hynes and was “how things were done.”

Newton’s prison records show he was chartered 26 times in six months. On one occasion correction officers walked in on him attempting to commit suicide.

Irvin admitted at the hearing last year that he didn’t personally sign all the court documents with his name on it.

Gerstein cited prosecutorial misconduct in his 34-page decision to overturn Spruill’s conviction and order a new trial.

“We are appealing this decision,” said a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

Spruill was united with Jabbar Collins, another exoneree whose murder conviction was overturned by a federal judge in 2010.

The pair met in prison where Collins helped Spruill file a FOIL request to appeal his case.

Collins went on to become a paralegal and vigorously worked alongside Dave to clear Spruill’s name.

Source: Daily News

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