Brooklyn man jailed for 22 years released after overturned conviction

William Lopez's murder conviction was thrown out by a federal judge because of failings of his trial lawyer. The Brooklyn District Attorney's office is appealing the judge's decision and may re-try Lopez.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 8:54 PM
 
William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends, including brother Eugene Lopez (left), walked out of court a free man on Wed., Jan. 23, 2013. His 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court.  Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends, including brother Eugene Lopez (left), walked out of court a free man on Wed., Jan. 23, 2013. His 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court. 

A Brooklyn man whose murder conviction was thrown out by a federal judge last week was released without bail Wednesday after serving 22 years in prison.

"Sir, you are free to go," Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano said to William Lopez, who walked from the defense table into the arms of his wife and brother.

Outside, Lopez's lawyer Richard Levitt handed him a MetroCard.

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"I've never seen one of these before, only on television," Lopez said, "but I'll learn how to use it."

"It feels great to be back on earth and I'm looking forward to restarting my life as best I can. I'll probably just take a nice breath of fresh air. Cold air."

William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends,  walked out of court a free man Wed, January 23, 2013, after his 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court.  Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends,  walked out of court a free man Wed, January 23, 2013, after his 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court. 

Lopez, 54, has always maintained he was innocent of the shotgun killing of a Elvirn Surria in a Brighton Beach crackhouse on Aug. 31, 1989.

Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Lopez should receive a new trial because his lawyer failed to call alibi witnesses and the drug-addled witness who fingered him as the gunman has since recanted.

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"The prosecution's evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after the trial," Garaufis wrote.

But Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes isn't throwing in the towel yet.

William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends,  walked out of court a free man Wed, January 23, 2013, after his 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court.   Aaron Showalter/New York Daily News William Lopez, surrounded by attorneys, family and friends,  walked out of court a free man Wed, January 23, 2013, after his 1989 murder conviction was vacated today by Justice Guy Mangano in Brooklyn Supreme Court.  

Prosecutors are appealing Garaufis's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals while it conducts a further investigation of the facts, said Hynes' spokesman Jerry Schmetterer.

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"If necessary, the People will re-try the defendant on the pending murder charge," Schmetterer said in a statement.

Lopez's wife Alice called the conviction an "injustice." Their daughter Crystal was 14-months old when Lopez went to prison and she's 25 today.

"I never lost hope," Alice Lopez said. "People told me that I should leave him, but I traveled everywhere he was sent to see him. We knew one day he was coming home."

oyaniv@nydailynews.com