George Bell Spent 24 Years in Prison for Murders He Didn’t Commit. Now He Wants Justice.

A Black man who served 24 years in prison after being unjustly convicted of two murders is now suing New York City and a group of police officers for allegedly threatening him to make a confession. wrongdoing made him sit behind bars.

George Bell’s conviction — and a life sentence without parole — was overturned in 2021 after new evidence emerged proving his innocence. His attorney, Richard Emery, blamed Bell’s conviction in the 1990s on a variety of factors, including media bias, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s poor criminal strategy, and The city’s flawed justice system, arguing that it targets blacks and browns.

Emery told The Daily Beast: “It is hasty to judge the political forces behind that ruling.

In a complaint filed on June 2 and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Bell asks for at least $50 million in punitive damages. damages should be determined at trial.

In December 1996, Ira “Mike” Epstein and NYPD Officer Charles Davis were killed in a robbery murder at a cash register business in Queens, according to the lawsuit. Epstein owned the business, and Davis worked as a security guard during his time off from the force. Authorities immediately launched a “manhunt” for the killers, with Giuliani and NYPD officials swearing they “wouldn’t rest” until they found those responsible.

“[Giuliani] is very interested in the tabloids and the communities that he thinks will support him and vote for him. Of course, he was right,” said Emery. (New York Exciting news now frequently referred to Bell as a “cry” murderer after his conviction.)

“The crime is very serious [at] at that time. He is looking to back up a police force that is carrying out… blatantly false prosecutions based on poor police performance.”

The Daily Beast could not be reached for comment.

Although there was a local gang known as the “Speedstick” that had committed crimes similar to the robbery-murder, police focused their attention on other suspects, the complaint states.

That December, a local drug dealer, John Bigwe, was arrested for selling marijuana. Police told him he would face serious consequences – including deportation to his native Haiti – if he did not cooperate with their investigation, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Bigwe implicated Bell because his girlfriend had previously had an affair with Bell. The complaint states that police tricked Bell into going to the prison to help a friend who had been arrested. There, Bell was intensely questioned by officers, according to the lawsuit.

“[It was the] The pressure and political environment forced the police to choose a suspect who was convenient for them, but not the right person,” said Emery. “And of course, once they pick a suspect, they don’t look at anyone else. They just focus on George. … They never gave up, they beat George into submission and forced him to confess. ”

Bell, 19 years old at the time, was charged with murder. He has no criminal record, and the complaint states that interrogators failed to read his Miranda rights prior to his arrest.

Officers are said to have yelled at Bell, pulled his hair, vowed to “put him in the damn hospital” and claimed he would never see his family again if he didn’t cooperate, according to the report. file.

The lawsuit states that there is no physical evidence to tie Bell to double homicide. But evidence repeatedly pointed to the Speedstick gang before Bell was brought to trial, according to the lawsuit.

Emery told The Daily Beast that he feels Bell’s race played a role in the unfair treatment he received.

“The racism in all of this is clearly visible and most certainly is the fact that most of the victims of wrongful convictions, in large numbers, are Black men,” he said. he said. “At the very least, George is also a victim of racial prejudice, if not direct racial aversion.”

The NYPD declined to comment on the matter.

During his 1999 trial, Bell was found guilty of murder. Authorities offered him a plea agreement that would allow him to avoid the death penalty if he confessed, but Bell maintained his innocence. The jury ultimately denied the death penalty, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On June 29, 1999, the New York Exciting news now reported that the jury “pardoned crying murderer George Bell.”

After the establishment of the Queens County District Attorney’s Office Unit of integrity and conviction in 2020, it found that a wealth of evidence related to the Speedstick was intentionally withheld at trial. According to the complaint, one member of the gang even admitted to being involved in the 1997 murders. In 2021, Bell’s conviction was overturned and he was eventually expunged. Authorities considered it only a “mistake in good faith”, according to the complaint.

But that’s not a satisfactory explanation for Bell, now 44, who wants retribution after being held captive for more than half of his life. After being in multiple detention facilities and being accused of being a harasser among other convicts, Bell “continued to press on anyone who might be able to help him,” according to his attorney. .

“He was able to prevail,” said Emery. “He knew he was innocent the whole time, and his family was very close to him and supported him one hundred percent.”

Along with Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt made false confessions to the murders. Their convictions in the murders were also overturned, New York Times reported. Overall, they spent nearly 75 years in prison.

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