A man who has been serving time since 1995 for the murder of a drug dealer has been released with his conviction overturned by a judge. That judge found evidence of serious prosecutorial misconduct that made his trial and conviction unfair. The district attorney’s office is appealing the decision.
According to the New York Daily News, Tasker Spruill has always maintained his innocence in the 1993 killing of an East New York drug dealer. He was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 25 years to life behind bars. He was released last week, but since his case is appealable, his release is conditioned on a $200,000 bond and electronic ankle monitoring.
Nevertheless, he and his family were thrilled and relieved. “I’m shaking,” Spruill told reporters after his release. “I give all praises to God. I don’t even feel like I can stand up right now.”
Judge: Prosecutor intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence, abused witness
After a long hearing, a Brooklyn, New York, judge ruled that a prosecutor had attempted to coerce an eyewitness to testify against Spruill. In the months leading up to the trial, the prosecutor allegedly misused court orders and transported the witness back and forth between the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City to another prison in upstate New York, or to his own office. This was meant to coerce the witness, who had refused to testify.
This process of shuttling someone back and forth between prisons and the prosecutor’s office was called “bullpen therapy” and was apparently “how things were done” under the district attorney at that time.
The eyewitness’s prison records show that he was exposed to this rough justice 26 times in six months. It was apparently just as disruptive and terrifying as it sounds, as the Daily News says that corrections officers once walked in on the man attempting to commit suicide.
Worse yet, the prosecutor apparently did not give the defense key evidence about the eyewitness — such as the fact that he had been the prime suspect in the case before Spruill. That evidence could easily have benefitted the defense, so prosecutors are required by law to turn it over.
Finally, the prosecutor admitted in court that he did not personally sign some of the court documents attributed to him, which is also legally required.
Spruill, 51, suffers from a medical condition called Neurosarcoidosis and also has brain tumors, which have cost him his sight.
“It’s been a long time coming, my brother coming home. It’s like being reborn again,” said Spruill’s younger brother. “He’s been locked up for something he didn’t do …. At least he has his family to help him out.”