AP NEWS

Prosecutors won’t retry 2 men in reversed ’90s murder case

February 4, 2020 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Prosecutors in New Jersey said Tuesday they won’t retry two men whose convictions in a double killing 25 years ago were recently thrown out.

A state appeals court had ruled last month that newly developed evidence cast doubt on the guilty verdicts against Kevin Baker and Sean Washington. The pair was convicted of killing two people outside a Camden housing project in January 1995.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Camden County prosecutor’s office said in making its decision it “considered the totality of the circumstances, including the passage of time and the impact it would have on re-trying the defendants and proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The office added that it disagreed with the appeals court’s ruling and said the court “did not declare Baker and Washington ‘actually innocent’ and did not find error with the initial prosecution of this matter.”

Attorneys Lesley and Michael Risinger, who have worked on the case for nearly eight years for the Seton Hall University Law School’s Last Resort Exoneration Project, said it may take several more days before the men are released.

“We are joyous that the prosecutor’s office saw fit to do the right thing and bring justice to these two men,” Michael Risinger said.

Baker and Washington have been serving life sentences with no parole eligibility for 60 years.

Some of the evidence used to overturn their convictions wasn’t available at their trial: for instance, specialized testing not in common use at the time led one expert to conclude in 2013 that the bullets had struck the ground and ricocheted before hitting one of the victims, contradicting the one eyewitness’ account of the shooting.

Other evidence could have been used but wasn’t, according to court documents. Alibi witnesses for both men weren’t called to testify, nor was a man who told police he was with the eyewitness and cast doubt on whether she saw the shooting.

Washington also contended he made a 911 call after noticing the two victims when he left a relative’s house to use a pay phone; at a hearing in 2016 he testified no one obtained a copy of the call until 2013. His trial lawyer admitted he hadn’t known of the tape, according to court documents.

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The story has been corrected to show that the statement was released Tuesday, not Monday.