Palladium Murder: Case of Wrongful Conviction?
Dateline aired an excellent program a few days ago on New York's Palladium murder. It looks to be a case of faulty eyewitness evidence and prosecutorial withholding of evidence, made all the more compelling by the extraordinary dedication of a detective who wouldn't give up fighting to prove the convicted mens' innocence. The transcript from the show is here.
Three weeks after the shooting, eyewitnesses identified 22-year-old David Lemus in a photo array. At the time, he was a part-time construction worker going to night school to become a carpenter's apprentice. Five weeks later, he was picked out again in a lineup, arrested and charged with murder.
Another 10 months passed before a second man was arrested. Twenty-six-year-old Omeldo Hidalgo was also picked out in a photo array and a lineup. Hidalgo had come to this country three years earlier and was working in his brother's grocery store, sending money to his family back in the Dominican Republic.
Lemus and Hildago have been in jail for 14 years. Detective Bobby Addolorato dedicated the last ten years of his career to proving their innocence. In later years, his partner, John Schwartz, joined him. Both have since retired from the force, Addolorato did so in order to publicize the case. Lemus and Hildago are seeking new trials. The next hearing is in April.
I rarely watch these kind of shows, but I came across it while channel-surfing the other night and stayed glued through the whole thing. The dedication of the detective, Bobby Addolorato, is incredible. Thomas Spanky Morales, the man believed to be the real killer, is out on the streets, inviting cops to talk to him. He says he has information that could exonerate Lemus and Hildago, and that he could clear up the whole thing.
Fourteen years after the Palladium murder, it's up to the judge to decide did these men get a fair shake from the system. Should they be set free? Those are questions that weigh heavily on all those who have been drawn into the case.
Addolorato: "I ended my career for this case, and I'd do it again cause it's the right thing to do."
Schwartz: "If they can do it to these two guys they can do it to anyone else."
Cohen [defense attorney]: "My heart breaks for the two of them. It's just something I can't imagine living through."
Nilsa [mother of one defendant]: "But the wheels of justice roll slowly. So we have patience for 13 years. I have patience. I told my son and I promised him, 'I'll fight for you to the day of my last breath.' And that's how it is."
Kramer [Jury foreperson]: "I think I made a huge mistake. I want to reverse it. I want the police and the district attorney to put the right man in jail and get the innocent guys out. I mean this is a travesty of justice."
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