Fernando Bermudez spent 18 years in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit. Although the charges were dismissed in 2009, and Bermudez was released from prison, he lost nearly 20 years of his life. The former inmate has now announced that he settled with the state of New York for $4.7 million in damages for his wrongful conviction.
Bermudez was convicted in the 1991 shooting death of 16-year-old Raymond Blount. Through photographs, and a police lineup, several witnesses named Bermudez as the gunman. Although he vehemently denied the charges, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, Fernando Bermudez was convicted of murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison. At the time of his conviction, the defendant was 22-years-old.
As reported by New York Post, Bermudez spent 18 years trying to prove his innocence. As several witnesses eventually recanted their testimony, the case and charges were reexamined by Supreme Court Justice John Cataldo.
Bermudez’s attorneys argued that key witnesses discussed the shooting incident prior to identifying the defendant as a suspect. Additionally, at least one witness testified as part of a plea agreement.
In November 2009, Judge Cataldo ruled that the inmate “demonstrated his actual innocence” in Blount’s shooting death. In addition to overturning the wrongful conviction, the judge also dismissed the original charges.
While announcing his decision, the judge expressed “profound regret” that Bermudez spent 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
The defendant, his family, and his defense team, were thrilled with the ruling. However, Chief Assistant DA Mark Dwyer said he “disagree[s] with the judge’s decision.” Dwyer said his office is considering an appeal, as they have serious doubt about Bermudez’s innocence.
Fernando Bermudez said the $4.75 million “settlement will never erase the injustice.” However, it was the largest settlement ever awarded for wrongful conviction in the state of New York. Bermudez said his 18 years in prison were a “very long, bitter struggle.” Thankfully, his family never wavered in their support. It was their strength that kept him going when he was ready to give up.
Although he was happy to have his freedom, Bermudez said he struggled “with culture and emotional shock.” In addition to constant anxiety, the former inmate said he is “overwhelmed” by all the new technology.
Bermudez said he volunteers as a motivational speaker, as he enjoys discussing his experience. As reported by CBS News, ee is also working toward a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science.
Fernando Bermudez’s wrongful conviction settlement will not replace the years he lost. However, it will make his new life a bit easier to bear.
[Image via Global Wrong]