After three decades behind bars, a judge has thrown out the murder convictions of Vincent Ellerbe, James Irons and Thomas Malik after prosecutors cast doubt on the charges against them.
The three men were found guilty of killing subway token seller Harry Kaufman in 1995, in an attack that was likened to a scene from the movie. money train who was released shortly before the murder.
All three have maintained that they were coerced into making false confessions by detectives who were later charged with setting up suspects with false confessions.
Mr. Malik and Mr. Irons, both 45, walked free from court, while Mr. Ellerbe, 44, was released on parole in 2020.
“What happened to us can never be fixed,” Mr Ellerbe told the court. “They break you, or they turn you into a monster.”
A lawyer for Mr. Irons said his client was at home with his mother when he heard the explosion and called 911 himself. That call was never played for the jury.
Mr Kaufman was attacked on November 26, 1995 while working nights to save extra money for his son’s future school fees.
Prosecutors handling the case said the attackers tried to rob his booth, before squirting gasoline into the coin slot and lighting it with matches. Mr Kaufman, 50, fled the blast but died of his injuries two weeks after the attack.
Prosecutors reviewing the case found Detective Louis Scarcella and his partner provided crime scene details to Mr. Irons and Mr. Malik, while ignoring inconsistencies in their confessions.
“More than 25 years later, we have no confidence in the integrity of these convictions,” Assistant District Attorney Lori Glachman told the court.
Detective Scarcella retired in 2000 and denied any wrongdoing. Since 2013, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office has reviewed many of his cases and more than a dozen convictions have been overturned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report