There was joy outside a Queens courthouse Friday as three men wrongfully convicted in a double murder had the charges dismissed. The three men spent two decades in prison, but new evidence was uncovered; CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reports.
JESSICA MOORE: Joy outside a Queens courthouse today as three men wrongfully convicted in a double murder have the charges dismissed. Welcome back. I'm Jessica Moore.
KRISTINE JOHNSON: And I'm Kristine Johnson. The three men spent two decades in prison.
JESSICA MOORE: That was until new evidence was uncovered. CBS 2's Natalie Duddridge reports.
NATALIE DUDDRIDGE: Cheers erupted as 46-year-old Gary Johnson, 59-year-old Rohan Bolt, and 44-year-old George Bell walked out of Queen's Criminal Court free men, their names finally cleared after spending 24 years in prison wrongfully convicted of a double murder in Queens.
GEORGE BELL: I dreamt about this moment for so many years.
GARY JOHNSON: The first thing I did was hug my wife.
ROHAN BOLT: Being away so long, it's a different world out here today.
NATALIE DUDDRIDGE: In December 1996, two men, Ira Mike Epstein and off duty police detective Charles Davis were shot and killed during an attempted robbery in Queens. Bell and Johnson were 19 and 22 at the time. They had never met Bolt, a 34-year-old married father of four and business owner. All three were arrested and convicted.
Then in 2019, a police report surfaced in another wrongful conviction case with key evidence that implicated a local gang in this case, not Bell, Johnson, and Bolt. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz spoke on CBS this morning in March after the new information came to light.
MELINDA KATZ: My Conviction Integrity Unit that spent 11 months on this case truly believes that it was not a purposeful misconduct.
NATALIE DUDDRIDGE: For the last three months, Bell, Johnson, and Bolt have been waiting to hear if they'd be retried, or if the case would be dismissed. Today, all charges were officially dropped. The investigation is now in the hands of the Cold Case unit. Each of the men are now exploring their new freedoms, and dealing with it in different ways.
GARY JOHNSON: Justice finally prevailed.
ROHAN BOLT: Bitter, but you got to move forward.
GEORGE BELL: I still pinch myself and say, you know, is this really real?
NATALIE DUDDRIDGE: What they each treasure most is making up for lost time with their families. In Kew Gardens Queens, Natalie Duddridge, CBS 2 News.