A Brooklyn man who served 27 years in prison for a 1992 murder he insists he did not commit finally has the weight of a possible retrial off his back.
Brooklyn prosecutors will not retry Emmanuelle Cooper, 55, for the 1993 murder of MTA subway token clerk Andres Barretto, who was shot to death in an East New York subway station after two men forced their way into a token booth and robbed the workers inside.
“I’m a free man now,” Cooper told the Daily News. “I don’t have that burden on my back of thinking that they can frame me again. All along I know they didn’t have nothing on me. I’m an innocent person.”
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office consented to overturning Cooper’s conviction in January after it came out that one key witness was incarcerated during the case and prosecutors did not tell that to the defense.
That witness, Rico Sanchez, had testified at trial that he saw Cooper running from the train station after the crime.
In 2018, Sanchez recanted his testimony, saying he heard gunshots but never saw Cooper at the scene.
After reinterviewing two other key witnesses in the case, both MTA workers who were in the token booth, prosecutors said in March they planned to retry Cooper for the murder.
But after months of waiting and more interviews with the witnesses, the DA’s office changed its mind. It announced in court on Monday it did not have the evidence for a retrial that would bring a conviction.
Of the three main witnesses who implicated Cooper at his 1993 trial, only Elaine Terry, one of the MTA workers in the token booth, stood by her assertion that she saw Cooper kill Barretto in the booth.
Another worker at the station, Russell Bratton, admitted to prosecutors when they re-interviewed him that he may have recognized Cooper for another reason.
“Mr. Bratton also stated that it’s possible that he identified Mr. Cooper because he recognized Mr. Cooper as a passenger who frequented the subway station where this murder occurred rather than because Mr. Cooper committed this crime,” said Assistant District Attorney Howard Jackson Monday. “This new revelation undermines Mr. Bratton’s account and renders him an unreliable witness.”
Cooper’s lawyer, Jamal Johnson, attorney-in-charge of the Homicide Defense Task Force at The Legal Aid Society, said that he had hoped the DA’s Office would apologize to Cooper, or at least assert he was innocent as opposed to only saying they lacked sufficient evidence to retry him.
But Johnson also commended the office for always being willing to look at old murder convictions. "I’m very pleased with that aspect of it,” Johnson said.
Cooper, who was freed in January, plans to continue enjoying his family and freedom in North Carolina.
“I’m getting out a little bit more, traveling a bit more, enjoying my family. What more can I ask for?" he said. "I’m enjoying life, taking it one day at a time, and I’m going to be OK.”
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