Saturday 20 January 2024

He Spent 14 Years Telling Authorities Who Was The Real Killer. Now Prosecutors Believe Him.

 A man has been freed after he spent 14 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and prosecutors now believe they know who is the real killer.

Steven Ruffin, 45, has been telling authorities who really killed 16-year-old James Deligny on a Brooklyn street in February 1996 for decades, but until now, he has been ignored.

“I lost 14 years of my life for a crime that I didn’t commit,” Ruffin said after he was exonerated on Thursday, according to the New York Daily News. “I’ve been very fortunate since my release. I had to make peace with my situation in order to survive. I’m looking forward to closing this chapter of my life.”

“If you know you’re innocent, don’t give up on your case — keep on fighting, because justice will prevail,” Ruffin said outside the courthouse, according to the Associated Press. “That’s all I’ve wanted for 30 years: somebody to listen and really hear what I’m saying and look into the things I was telling them.”

Ruffin was paroled in 2010, but his 1996 manslaughter conviction still stood on his record. He has since moved to Georgia and started working in sanitation, but said he wanted the conviction dismissed so he could clear his name and “move on.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said his office is looking into whether they can charge the man who actually shot Deligny during a confrontation about stolen earrings.

“You have to be able to convict someone beyond a reasonable doubt, and we have to make sure that that evidence is sufficient to do so,” Gonzalez said, according to the AP. “You have a lot of factors working against us procedurally, but also factually — unfortunately, this is 30 years ago.”

Ruffin was a teenager when his attorneys – and now prosecutors – say retired NYPD Det. Louis Scarcella pressured the teen into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit. Ruffin was tied to the case because Deligny was mistaken for a man who had stolen earrings from Ruffin’s sister Diane, the Daily News reported.

Ruffin provided two statements denying that he shot Deligny before Scarcella brought in Ruffin’s estranged cop father, who convinced the teen to confess.

In a 56-page report from Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit, Ruffin’s confession wrongly identified the type of gun used in the shooting and included other factual errors. His conviction was based on one shaky eyewitness and Ruffin’s confession, which he recanted. Ruffin was identified by a cracked front tooth, but the man Ruffin says actually committed the crime, his sister’s then-boyfriend, also had a cracked front tooth.

The alleged assailant is identified only as “Glover,” and had a child with Diane. Glover allegedly confessed to multiple people that he committed the crime, and Diane reportedly “didn’t want to implicate [her] baby’s father.”

“After a full investigation by my Conviction Review Unit, we can no longer stand by this old conviction and will move to give Mr. Ruffin his good name back,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “A confluence of factors, including errors by defense counsel and tunnel vision by law enforcement, produced a tragic result in this case – Mr. Ruffin was convicted for the actions of a different person whom he claimed to be the killer all along.”

Ruffin’s case is the 18th guilty verdict with connections to Scarcella that has been overturned. Scarcella has denied any wrongdoing.

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