NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York judge has overturned the arson and murder convictions of three men in a 1980 fire that killed a mother and her five children in Park Slope.
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, the district attorney told a judge the men were innocent all along.READ MORE: NYPD: Officer Shot 3 Times In Brooklyn, Suspect Shot By Police
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson asked the judge to clear the men, saying they were convicted based on outdated fire science and a lying witness who recanted on her death bed.
“We got this case wrong,” Thompson said.
Two of the men attended Wednesday’s hearing in Brooklyn state Supreme Court. The third died in prison; his widow was present in court.
William Vasquez, Amaury Villalobos and Raymond Mora were convicted of arson and six murders after a 1981 trial.
The defendants consistently maintained their innocence.
Vasquez and Villalobos were paroled in 2012; Mora died in 1989.
“Those are years that nothing in the world can give me back,” Vasquez said. “I went in at 30, I come out at 65.”
“I feel great. After all these years in prison, I feel great,” Villalobos said.
Both served more than 30 years behind bars, and have been out on parole for 2 years. Villalobos is now 66, Vasquez is now 70 and blind.
More died in 1989, his wife and daughter appeared in court on his behalf.
“My husband is not here to see the victory, but I know he’s looking down on us, and I know he’s resting in peace now,” Janet Mora said.READ MORE: Times Square Shooting Suspect Farrakhan Muhammad Taken Into Custody Near Jacksonville, Florida
“There’s no better Christmas gift that I can get than to say that my dad is innocent and now everybody knows,” Mora’s daughter Eileen said.
In 2012, Villalobos contacted NYU law professor Adele Bernhard and her students in the Post Conviction Innocence Clinic.
The team discovered through updated fire science that there was no sign of arson in the 1980 fire.
They also found the building owner Hannah Quick, who accused the men, was a know substance abuser and habitual liar who admitted to family members that she sent three innocent men to prison.
Bernhard brought the findings to the Brooklyn District Attorney.
“We are putting evidence on trial and convicting people on myth,” Bernhard said.
On Wednesday, as they embraced true freedom, Villalobos and Vasquez said they harbor no anger.
“Bitterness would not fulfill my dream of accomplishing what I accomplished. All my suffering would be in vain,” Vasquez said.
“Why should I be angry? I know they did something bad to me, but God is there, and I know God is on my side,” Villalobos added.
The Brooklyn D.A.’s office couldn’t reinterview the building owner because she died in 2014.
Investigators spoke with family members who said drug users often did heroin by candlelight in the building, and the owner also had an illegal hook up to the electrical grid.MORE NEWS: Police Arrest Woman Accused Of Attacking Asian Woman With Hammer Near Times Square
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