Judge declares NYC resident innocent in 1992 murder
NEW YORK - A New York City man was freed after spending nearly two decades behind bars for murder before a judge declared him innocent, a prison system official says.
A week and a day after a judge tossed out his conviction, Fernando Bermudez walked out of Sing Sing, embraced his wife, and compared himself to Rip Van Winkle, waking not from a nap, but from a nightmare.
"It's been hell in this place. It's been hell every day waking up knowing that you're innocent," he said Friday. "It's been a nightmare every day, suffering, being anxious, being worried."
Inmates watched out a window as Bermudez savored his first moments of freedom with his wife, Crystal.
"I'm blessed, this is a good day, and I thank God that he answered prayers," she said.
The pair met while Bermudez was serving almost 18 years for the 1991 murder of teenager Raymond Blount, who was shot dead at a nightclub once housed in a building near Union Square. Last week, a judge said a botched lineup and the lies of a key witness landed the innocent Bermudez behind bars.
"The truth is stronger than lies. This is a wonderful day for America because it shows justice and truth are still possible in this country," he said.
Lawyers Leslie and Michael Risinger worked tirelessly to free Bermudez, but Cyrus Vance, the new Manhattan District Attorney, still much decide whether or not to appeal Bermudez's release.
"It's time to let Fernando Bermudez to go home, and stay free," said Michael Risinger.
As his prison stuff was loaded into the lawyer's car, Bermudez was thinking about his stomach.
"I'm dying to eat, I'm dying to just enjoy life, take it one day at a time," he said.
But then, his escape from Sing Sing was delayed. Just as Bermudez was ready to be driven to freedom, the state prison vehicle wouldn't start! Fortunately, some helpful folks brought it back to life, something Bermudez can certainly relate to.
Bermudez is writing a book about his ordeal, and he's also asking a federal judge to count his years in Sing Sing as punishment for an unrelated drug conviction.
Bermudez has completed most of a college degree in prison, his family said.
He and his wife have three children.