You are reading

Three Men Wrongly Convicted of Double Murder Won’t Face New Trial: DA

From left, George Bell, Rohan Bolt and Gary Johnson (Source: GoFundMe)

June 4, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

Three men who spent nearly a quarter century behind bars after being wrongfully convicted for a 1996 double murder can now move on with their lives.

George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt, who were released in March when their sentences were vacated due to prosecutorial misconduct, were notified by Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz Thursday that she would no retry them.

The men appeared in Queens Supreme Court this morning where the charges related to the 1996 killings of Charles Davis and Ira Epstein were formally dismissed. The two men were shot and killed on Dec. 21, 1996 during a botched robbery attempt at Epstein’s check cashing business in East Elmhurst. Davis, an off-duty NYPD officer, was working as a part-time security guard.

“As of this moment, you once again have the power to choose to decide what happens next in your lives,” said Justice Michelle Johnson during the hearing.

The decision not to pursue charges followed a three-month investigation by the Conviction Integrity Unit. That followed an eleven-month investigation where it was determined that the three men were victims of prosecutorial misconduct.

“There can be no true justice, in Queens County or anywhere else, unless we hold ourselves to the highest standards facilitating the process by which justice is sought. My commitment to the effort continues,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

The investigation conducted by the Conviction Integrity Unit determined that the prosecutors failed to disclose key information at the time of the initial trial that would have helped the defense. For instance, the defense was not informed that a member of a gang called “Speedstick” had implicated himself and other members of his gang in the killings.

Prosecutors also failed to disclose the mental health records of a purported accomplice who testified against two of the defendants at trial.

The decision not to pursue charges follows 60 interviews with witnesses and a review of hundreds of hours of electronic evidence. Investigators also reevaluated DNA evidence, ballistics evidence and re-tested fingerprints.

Bell, who was 19 years old at the time of the killings, said he would close his eyes at night while in prison and imagine himself being at a family gathering. He has been able to make that dream a reality ever since March 5, when the three men were released from prison.

“To be free is the most amazing feeling in the world,” Bell said. He says that the small things in life, like calling his parents each morning, or even just opening his own refrigerator, are what he looks forward to each day.”

Gary Johnson, who was 22 at the time of the murders, says the charges being dropped brings a sense of closure to his life.

“The burden that has been sitting on my shoulders for the past 24 years has been lifted and I am excited to be able to start my life again,” Johnson said.

Rohan Bolt, who was 35 at the time of the killings, says he hopes his conviction being overturned will lead to other wrongly-convicted people being set free as well.

“I will never get that time back, but I will make the most of every day I have now,” Bolt said.

email the author: news@queenspost.com
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Preserving Tradition, Embracing Innovation: A Journey through Katz’s Delicatessen

May. 22, 2024 by Jill Carvajal

In this episode of Schneps Connects, we delve into the captivating history and enduring legacy of Katz’s Delicatessen, a cherished institution in New York City since 1888. Jake Dell, the fifth-generation custodian of Katz’s, joins us to recount the deli’s evolution amidst the ever-changing landscape of NYC. From its iconic “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign to the traditional ticket system, Jake shares insights into the family business and invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, especially in the demanding restaurant industry of NYC. He unveils some of Katz’s secrets, including the meticulous pastrami-making process that sets them apart, and discusses the enduring allure that keeps customers lining up daily. From expanding catering services to international shipping, Jake reflects on the milestones and challenges of running Katz’s, highlighting his proudest achievements and future aspirations. With a nod to its celebrity following and film appearances, Jake offers a glimpse into the deli’s cultural impact and what lies ahead for this beloved New York institution.

Brooklyn man who was cleared in the murder of 14-year-old girl, indicted for attempted murder of teen in Middle Village last July: DA

A Brooklyn man who had a murder conviction vacated by the Queens District Attorney’s Office in November 2022 was indicted in connection to a fatal shooting in Middle Village.

Shamel Capers, 24, of Herzl Street, was arraigned Tuesday in Queens Supreme Court on an indictment charging him with attempted murder and Dante Hunter, 25, of Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, was arraigned Monday on an indictment charging with murder and other crimes in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Joshua Taylor in Middle Village last July.