Prisoners Released 17 Years After Being Wrongly Convicted of Killing Taxi Driver

Two men who had their convictions for the 1995 murder of a taxi driver overturned have finally been released.

Eric Glisson and Cathy Watkins spent 17 years in a New York Jail, wrongly convicted for murdering livery cab driver Baith Diop.

Bronx Supreme Court Judge Denis Boyle exonerated the pair in October after hearing that gang members had confessed to the murder, and yesterday the pair finally had their ankle monitors removed.

Glisson and Watkins are among five people convicted in the murder of livery cab driver Baith Diop, who was gunned down on January 19, 1995, amid a rash of taxi driver murders around New York City.

Three others who were also convicted of the crime in 1997 - Devon Ayers, Michael Cosme and Carlos Perez - are waiting to hear if their convictions will be convicted.

However they will remain in jail over Christmas and New Year, pending their hearing on January 2.

Press accounts had described how, according to police, the Senegalese immigrant begged for his life before being shot in the back and neck. Ballistics showed that he was shot with two .38-caliber handguns that were never recovered.

Fighting for freedom: Glisson wrote to federal prosecutors saying he'd heard the murder was the work of a gang called Sex, Money and Murder

Rather than treat the crime as a fatal holdup, New York Police Department detectives and prosecutors linked it to a complex conspiracy by a band of drug dealers involved in the execution-style killing of FedEx executive Denise Raymond two days earlier.

Investigators alleged that Diop was killed as part of a related scheme to steal a pile of drug money that one of his passengers was carrying that night.

At the first of two trials, three men were convicted in both the killing of Denise Raymond and Diop. At the second, a jury found Glisson and Watkins guilty in the cabbie homicide. All received lengthy sentences.

Glisson's lawyer said that as the years passed, his client exhausted all his appeals before writing a letter to federal prosecutors. In it, he said he had heard that the cabbie killing was the work of a gang called Sex, Money and Murder, or SMM.

The letter, though addressed to a prosecutor who had left the office, by coincidence made its way into the hands of John O’Malley - a former Bronx homicide detective familiar with SMM, the New York Times reported.

The names of Gilbert Vega and Jose Rodriguez, two SMM members, rang a bell for O'Malley. Both men had confessed to killing a Bronx cab driver in late 1994 or early 1995 – an admission that couldn't be corroborated at the time.

Vega and Rodriguez confessed after becoming cooperators in 2003.

The investigator re-interviewed the two men. They described again how they were riding in a cab together when they decided to rob the driver. When he put up a fight, they shot him and jumped out of the car without knowing whether he was dead.

Earlier this month, Glisson and Watkins filed court papers to have their convictions thrown out. Their next court hearing is scheduled for October 19.

'Deep down, I feel like the justice system failed me,' Glisson said in an interview earlier this year. 'But you just have to try to move on.'

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By Erin B 12/14/2012 08:47:00