Jonathan Fleming was arrested in 1989 and convicted of murder in an NYC shooting, even though he was in Florida at the time of the murder. Today, he is a free man, after serving 25 years for a crime didn’t commit. Fleming’s alibi was solid; he was on vacation at Disney World and even had documentation to back him up. The 51-year-old tearfully hugged his lawyers and relatives as he was exonerated. “Thank you, God!” Fleming exclaimed.
So what happened to free Fleming after 25 years? It’s being reported that a key witness recanted her story, newly found witnesses implicated someone else and prosecutors’ review of authorities’ files turned up documents supporting Fleming’s alibi. Fleming’s hotel receipt (that was in his pocket when he was arrested) showed that he paid for it in Florida five hours before the shooting. (Even the hotel workers said that they remembered Fleming.) Fleming’s mother, Patricia Fleming was also with her son in Orlando back in 1989 and even testified on his behalf, “I knew he didn’t do it, because I was there,” she said. “When they gave my son 25 to life, I thought I would die in that courtroom.”
Fleming said, “I feel wonderful. I’ve always had faith. I knew that this day would come someday.”
I could imagine how frightening and hopeless it must feel to be imprisoned for something you didn’t do. I’m sure many prisoners repeatedly claim their innocence, so when someone like Fleming comes along that is actually innocent, their cries may well fall on deaf ears. Fleming has always maintained that he was out of town when his friend, Darryl “Black” Rush was shot to death in Brooklyn in 1989.
He used his plane tickets, videos and postcards from the trip to back up said claim, but it was one woman’s testimony, claiming she’d seen Fleming shoot Rush. This victim soon recanted her testimony soon after Fleming was convicted, saying she lied to the police so they would forgive an unrelated arrest.
There was so much evidence backing up Fleming’s claim, it’s really disheartening to believe that so many people are wrongly convicted and do so much time that they don’t deserve. But at least there are many that are exonerated, although it could never make up for the amount of years that have been lost. More than 2,000 people have been exonerated of serious crimes since 1989 in the United States, according to a report by college researchers who have established the first national registry of exonerations.
When asked what his plans are, Fleming keeps it simple, saying, “I’m going to go eat dinner with my mother and my family, and I’m going to live the rest of my life.” Disney World is usually the response to this type of question, but with Fleming’s history, I’m sure Disney is no longer the greatest place on earth.