A man was cleared of murder charges after he spent 33 years in prison for the murder of a teenager, in what is New York's longest period between a murder charge and it being overturned in history.
At an emotional court hearing held in Long Island, New York, Judge Anthony Senft Jr granted a prosecution motion to dismiss murder conviction against Keith Bush, aged 62, some 44 years after his arrest, and told him: “I cannot give you that which was taken from you in the 1970s, but what I can restore to you today is your presumption of innocence.”
Surrounded by his fiance, Dora Moore and a dozens of friends and family members, Bush stared at the judge, as his shocked relatives burst into cheers, according to The New York Post.
Bush was found guilty of strangling to death 14-year-old Sherese Watson in Bellport, New York, in 1976, after they both left a house party together and her body was found on a vacant land near the party.
Even though Bush signed a confession, he always claimed he was innocent and the police forced him to confess, according to The New York Times.
“No one would listen,” Bush told the judge. “No one would at least hear me out.”
In 2006, Bush wrote a letter to Adele Bernhard, then a lawyer running a clinic at Pace Law School, asking for her help. After she read his confession, found there were irregularities in the evidence provided in courts, she decided to work on the case.
She found out the DNA sample found on Watson's body did not match the ones Bush had given in prison. After she filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain court records, she also discovered prosecutors did not inform judges at the time they had another suspect for the murder, John W Jones Jr, who died in 2006. Bernard filed a joint application with District Attorney Timothy Sini.
Bernard told the judge and Sini: “Sometimes, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, the arc of the universe does bend to justice, and it has in this case,” she said. “A wrongful conviction affects the whole community, and it takes a whole community to set it straight.”
Mr Bush was released on parole in 2007, and had to register as a sex offender. He spent another year in prison in 2013 on a parole violation. He now lives in Connecticut and works as a forklift operator.