William Lopez waited 23 years to taste freedom after being convicted of a crime he did not commit, but it turned out to be very short-lived.
The New York City man died of a massive asthma attack this weekend, just one year after being released from prison for a crime that prosecutors said he did not commit. Lopez had been convicted in 1989 of shooting a drug dealer to death, a crime that federal judge Nicholas Garaufis last year said was “rotten from day one.”
Police never found a murder weapon in the crime and there was also no hard evidence linking William Lopez to the scene. There were two witnesses who said they saw him at the scene, though one of them would later recant.
“In short, the prosecution’s evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble,” Garaufis wrote.
The 55-year-old Bronx man was freed in 2013 and had some big plans for his life, said Jeffrey Deskovic, whose Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice helped secure Lopez’s release.
“His life was really robbed from him,” he told he New York Post. “He wanted to do some domestic travel to other states, and to travel internationally.”
To make the case even sadder, William Lopez could have been on the verge of receiving an enormous payday to compensate the more than two decades he lost behind bars. He had filed a $124 million lawsuit for false imprisonment that was set to start in a matter of days.
“He wanted to go to college and to go to law school,” Deskovic said. “He wanted to set his wife up in business, and he wanted to be an entrepreneur.”
Family members implied that the stress of spending 23 years in prison may have contributed to Lopez’s death.
“My brother Bill was greatly bothered by fact that his life was dramatically impacted by being wrongfully convicted, as well as his knowledge that many other wrongful conditions have taken place without any changes in the system,” Lopez’s brother Eugene told the Post.
William Lopez was 55 when he died.