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Judge wooden gavel and handcuffs on US flag.

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The criminal justice system is far from just and oftentimes, it just makes criminals out of completely innocent people.

Eric Smokes and his lifelong friend David Warren were convicted of robbing and murdering a 71-year-old French tourist named Jean Casse just moments after the New Year’s Eve ball dropped in Times Square in 1987. According to DailyMail, Smokes, then 19, and Warren, then 16, were blamed for the crime despite there being hundreds of people in the surrounding area. They subsequently spent a collective 45 years in prison before being released on parole in 2011 and 2007 respectively.

NBC New York reported that on Jan. 31, 2024, a judge vacated both mens’ convictions after a long process of proving their innocence. In 2018, several witnesses who testified against the pair signed statements recanting their testimony. Much like the Central Park 5, the witnesses say they testified under intense pressure from police officers and detectives working the case.

The men spoke out after being exonerated via ABC 7:

“I’ve gave no pleas- I didn’t do none of that in court, that was for y’all. I knew we didn’t do nothing,” said Warren. “What would I take a plea for? I didn’t do nothing. I wasn’t going to sell him out, he didn’t do anything.”

For his part, Smokes spoke to his faith in the system:

“Everyone says the system doesn’t work. It does work, but it’s slow at working,” said Smokes

“The system” is as crooked as the day is long, but it stands to reason that Smokes wants to keep other falsely incarcerated people to continue fighting for the truth so that they too can attain the freedom that they have been robbed of.

Smokes and Warren both plan to pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the police detectives, prosecutors and the assistant district attorney who originally worked their case.


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