New York: A New York man’s conviction was cleared after he spent more than a quarter-century behind bars for a deadly robbery, with prosecutors acknowledging witnesses against him – including a 10-year-old boy – weren’t reliable.
Jaythan Kendrick, 62, walked out of a Queens courthouse Thursday, free for the first time since his arrest in the November 1994 death of Josephine Sanchez, a 70-year-old woman who was stabbed twice in the back.
‘I´m very, very happy today because I never thought this would happen, although I hoped and wished that it would,’ Kendrick, 62, told the court.
‘I´ve just known one thing for the last 25 years: I did not commit this crime,’ he said. ‘Nobody really understands what it is to be in prison when you are innocent, and you know you´re innocent, and you´re behind that wall.’
Queens Justice Joseph Zayas apologized to Kendrick for what he called a ‘monumental’ miscarriage of justice.
‘It took way, way too long to discover, and you, sir, deserve better than that,’ the judge said as he overturned Kendrick’s murder conviction and dismissed the case. ‘We failed you.’
Kendrick, an Army veteran and former postal carrier who is also known legally as Ernest Kendrick, had been serving a sentence of 25 years to life after being convicted of fatally stabbing Sanchez in 1995 at the Ravenswood Houses in Queens.
His conviction rested mainly on the testimony of the 10-year-old – who had looked out at the crime scene from a third-floor window and identified Kendrick as the man he saw running away – and a second witness, a man who said he saw Kendrick running past him with a purse.
A black handbag was later found by police while searching Kendrick’s apartment, which he was sharing with a woman at the time, the New York Post reported.
But recent DNA testing – which wasn’t done at the time of the trial – showed there was none of the victim’s DNA on the purse, contradicting the idea that the bag belonged to her. Tests also found another man’s DNA, not Kendrick’s, under Sanchez’s fingernails.
The now-grown child witness, who had initially picked someone else out of a lineup, recanted his later identification of Kendrick in recent years. He admitted that he wasn’t able to see the suspect clearly enough to identify him at the time of the incident.
Kendrick’s lawyers raised doubts about the veracity of the second witness, noting that the witness had two pending criminal cases and incentive to give police the testimony they needed to arrest Kendrick, Freidman said.
Additionally, four other witnesses have since emerged with accounts that conflicted with the second witnesses’ testimony.
‘This is a textbook case of wrongful conviction exposing the worst flaws in our system,’ said Susan Friedman, Kendrick’s lawyer with the Innocence Project, which worked on his case with the WilmerHale law firm.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said prosecutors now believe jurors would probably have acquitted Kendrick if they had heard all the evidence that’s now available.
In one of her first moves when she took office this past January, Katz created a Conviction Integrity Unit to review wrongful-conviction claims, and Kendrick’s soon became one of them.
‘This case is a prime example of why the CIU exists,’ she said in a statement Thursday.
Katz’s predecessor, Queens DA Richard Brown, had refused to consider the new evidence and insisted on Kendrick’s guilt. Brown died in 2019.
‘Too many police and prosecutors remain focused on securing and maintaining convictions at all costs,’ WilmerHale attorney Ross Firsenbaum said, while praising Katz’s office, according to the New York Post.
Firsenbaum donated his time to the Innocence Project to work on Kendrick’s wrongful conviction case.
Kendrick’s cousin, Clarence Hughes, spent the past 25 years advocating for Kendrick’s innocence, writing to the FBI, the Queens DA and ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’
‘The family is elated … Jaythan lost a lot of his family,’ Hughes said.
Hughes said that Kendrick’s mother and sister died while he was incarcerated, adding that ‘We don’t have that many of the family left.’
Kendrick told reporters that he was looking forward to a good meal now that he’s free – ‘Shrimp, flounder, lobster, crab, any of that’ – and said he’s looking forward to traveling and catching up on technology and other things he’s missed in prison.
‘As I was told, there´s a whole new world out there,’ he told reporters. ‘OK, let’s go.’
Kendrick’s advice to anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation as he was in, back in 1994, was: ‘I would tell them to ask for a lawyer, don’t say one word.’
He added that, ‘I trusted them, I trusted the police, I trusted they’d do the right thing and see that I was innocent. That was my mistake.’
North Korea is facing a severe food shortage
Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”.
He said the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain targets due to typhoons last year, which caused flooding.
There are reports that food prices have spiked, with NK News reporting that a kilogram of bananas costs $45 (£32).
North Korea has closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Trade with China has plummeted as a result. North Korea relies on China for food, fertiliser and fuel.
North Korea is also struggling under international sanctions, imposed because of its nuclear programmes.
The authoritarian leader of the single-party state talked about the food situation at the ruling Workers’ Party central committee which started this week in the capital Pyongyang.
During the meeting, Mr Kim said that national industrial output had grown by a quarter compared to the same period last year.
Officials were expected to discuss relations with the US and South Korea during the event but no details have been released yet.
In April, Mr Kim made a a rare admission of looming hardship, calling on officials to “wage another, more difficult ‘Arduous March’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little”.
The Arduous March is a term used by North Korea officials to refer to the country’s struggle during the 1990s famine, when the fall of the Soviet Union left North Korea without crucial aid.
The total number of North Koreans who starved to death at the time is not known, but estimates range up to three million.
It is highly unusual for Kim Jong-un to publicly acknowledge a food shortage. But this is a North Korean leader who has already admitted that his economic plan has failed.
The problem for Mr Kim is that when he took over from his father, he promised his people a more prosperous future. He said they would have meat on their tables and access to electricity. This has not happened. Now he’s having to prime the population for more hard work.
He is trying to tie this into the global pandemic, and state media reported that he pointed out to party officials that the situation across the world is getting “worse and worse”. With so little access to outside information, he can paint a picture of things being bad everywhere – not just in sealed off North Korea. He also described efforts to beat Covid-19 as a “protracted war”. That signals that border closures are not easing any time soon.
That is the concern of many aid organisations. The sealed border has prevented some food and medicine getting through. Most NGOs have had to leave the country, unable to get staff and supplies in or out.
Pyongyang has always called for “self-reliance”. It has closed itself off, just as it may need assistance and it is unlikely to ask for help. If it continues to push away all offers of international assistance, as ever, it may be the people who pay the price.
Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’
A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims by sharing the Gospel.
The accused, identified as Imam Uthman Olingha, told police he killed Bishop Francis Obo, senior pastor of Mpingire Pentecostal Revival Church Ministries International in Odapako village Mpingire Sub-County, on June 11, Morning Star News reported.
Olingha was one of the Muslim extremists dressed in Islamic attire who stopped Pastor Obo and his wife on their way home from a market at about 8:30 p.m., his wife, Christine Obo, said.
“Olingha openly confessed to police that he can’t regret that he killed the bishop because he did it in the cause of Allah’s word to kill all infidels who mislead Muslims. He added that Allah will be with him in jail, but the kafiri (infidel) deserved the killing.”
One of the attackers told the pastor, who oversaw 17 churches across the region and had been sharing Christ with Muslims, that he was an “infidel” who caused Muslims to leave Islam and “blasphemes the words of Allah,” and that, “Today Allah has judged you.”
A week before the murder, the couple had invited a former Islamic teacher to testify on how he became a Christian at their church, Christine Obo recalled. Area Muslims were also upset with the church because it offered the former Islamic teacher a pig as part of a micro-enterprise livestock project that helped raise funds for the church, she added.
Describing the incident, she said, “As I moved a few meters in a hurry trying to save my life, I heard a little noise and wailing from my husband and realized that his life was in danger.”
When she reached home, she was trembling and unable to speak, she said, and her children took her to a hospital. When she regained consciousness the following morning, she told her oldest son and his siblings to go to the site.
“Reaching there, they were shocked and fearful as they found a big number of Christians and relatives gathered around the dead body mourning their bishop after being murdered by Muslims,” Obo was quoted as saying.
According to World Watch Monitor, a homegrown Islamist rebel movement organizing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo has emboldened Ugandan radicals to persecute Christians.
Voice of the Martyrs earlier noted that Uganda’s history has made it vulnerable to the influence of Islam as “Arab countries also continue to invest significant resources into furthering Muslim interests in the country.”
In Uganda, persecution is mainly seen in the form of local Islamists persecuting Christians, mostly in areas where “radicals have been steadily encroaching.”
“Radical Islam’s influence has grown steadily, and many Christians within the majority-Muslim border regions are facing severe persecution, especially those who convert from Islam,” a Voice of the Martyrs factsheet explains. “Despite the risks, evangelical churches in Uganda have responded by reaching out to their neighbors; many churches are training leaders how to share the Gospel with Muslims and care for those who are persecuted after they become Christians.”
Last December, a mob of Muslim extremists in Uganda reportedly killed 41-year-old former imam Yusuf Kintu a week after he converted to Christianity.
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North Korea is facing a severe food shortage
Addressing a meeting of senior leaders, Mr Kim said: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense”. He said the...
Christian pastor killed over outreach to Muslims: ‘Today Allah has judged you’
A radical Muslim has confessed to police in Uganda that he killed a 70-year-old pastor earlier this month because of...
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