The Miami Herald reports that a man has been freed after serving 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. A judge ordered a new trial for Andre Gonzalez last month, but prosecutors dropped the case against him on Tuesday of this week.
Gonzalez was serving time for a murder outside of a nightclub in North Miami. He was also known as Tony Brown in court records. Now 46 years old, Gonzalez plans to spend time with his four children and fiancé now that he’s out of prison.
The Medill Justice Project at Northwestern University started investigating the case after interviewing another inmate who stated that Gonzalez wasn’t guilty. That inmate, Arnold Clark, testified in court later that his friend was the killer.
Last month, a judge agreed that the evidence against Gonzalez was shaky, doubting the eyewitness account and DNA found at the crime scene. Judge Miguel de la O ordered his conviction to be reversed and be given a new trial.
Although the Attorney General’s office didn’t agree with the judge, prosecutors dropped the case against Gonzalez because the key eyewitness was too fragile to stand another trial. The victim’s DNA had also been destroyed and couldn’t be tested on evidence.
Gonzalez was convicted of fatally shooting Nigel Whatley in 2005 during a fight and robbery just outside the Players Club. Michael Morris, the survivor who testified in court, said that Gonzalez was the attacker – although he was only 60 percent certain of that fact.
Gonzalez was found guilty in 2010 of second-degree murder, attempted murder and armed robbery, and sentenced to life in prison. A judge then granted his request for a new trial, but an appeals court overturned that decision.
*Photo credit Carl Juste/Miami Herald/TNS