NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Prosecutors have dropped their case against a man who spent a quarter-century behind bars in an infamous New York City tourist killing before getting his conviction overturned.
Johnny Hincapie‘s eyes moistened as prosecutors said they wouldn’t retry him in a case that once symbolized a city roiled by random crime. He was freed when his conviction was overturned in 2015, but he’d faced the possibility of a retrial and potential return to prison.READ MORE: Passenger Killed, Driver Airlifted To Hospital In East Farmingdale Crash
Hincapie said he falsely confessed to playing a part in a 1990 subway-station mugging that ended with the fatal stabbing of tourist Brian Watkins.
Watkins, 22, was visiting New York with his family from Provo, Utah to see the US Open that Labor Day weekend. He and his parents were heading to dinner when they were jumped by a group of youths looking to rob people to get money to go to a nearby dance hall, police said.
After his father was slashed and robbed of $200 and his mother was punched and kicked, Watkins was stabbed in the chest yet chased the attackers up two stairways before collapsing under a turnstile. He later died.
“Why did they do this to me?” he said, according to his father’s testimony at Hincapie’s trial. “We’re just here to have a good time.”
In a videotaped confession, Hincapie, who was 18 years old at the time, admitted to being on the platform when Watkins was killed.READ MORE: Gov. Hochul Announces Plan To Address School Bus Driver Shortage
Hincapie said one detective told him, “It would get me to go back home. That’s what they told me — that by memorizing the story and confessing to it to another, as he said — quote-unquote — ‘pretty lady’ in another room, that I would go right back home — and I believed him.”
Hincapie wasn’t accused of stabbing Watkins, but prosecutors argued the entire group of robbers bore responsibility for his death. He was among seven men convicted in the case.
Hincapie persuaded a judge to toss his conviction after two witnesses and a co-defendant said he wasn’t involved in the crime.
Prosecutors initially said they were committed to retrying Hincapie, but on Wednesday said they didn’t believe they could win a conviction in the case.
Prosecutors still believe Hincapie’s confession was true and he was involved in the mugging, but “there is significant doubt that a retrial of these charges would result in a conviction in light of the time that has passed,” some of the new testimony and other factors, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Eugene Hurley IIII wrote in a court filing released Wednesday.MORE NEWS: Man Killed, 11-Year-Old And 2 Others Hurt In Shooting At Bronx Barbecue
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