After serving seventeen years in prison for the murder of livery driver Baithe Diop, Eric Glisson and Cathy Watkins, who have always insisted that they were innocent, walked free from a Bronx courtroom on Wednesday. While five people were ultimately convicted of the 1995 murder, prosecutors now believe that two members of the gang Sex Money and Murder committed the crime. The New York Times reports that former gang members Gilbert Vega and Jose Rodriguez confessed to robbing and shooting a livery driver in 2003, but a former Bronx homicide detective only made the connection to Diop this summer when he received a letter from Glisson saying that he’d been wrongfully convicted. In light of overwhelming evidence that Vega and Rodriguez committed the crime and worked alone, the district attorney’s office told a judge on Wednesday that it had decided to take the “unprecedented” step of allowing Glisson and Watkins to be released.
The pair still isn’t completely free. They were fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets, and the district attorney’s office has 90 days to continue investigating the new evidence. If prosecutors haven’t asked to reinstate the convictions by then, the charges will be dismissed. The three others found guilty of the crime have filed papers asking that their convictions be vacated as well.
Of course, both Glisson and Watkins were ecstatic about finally being released, but they’re also understandably frustrated about the legal process. Glisson called the ankle monitor “demeaning,” adding, “When they put it on, I explained that to them, you know. Putting this on me, even though you know I’m innocent, just exacerbates my misery.” “I’m feeling happy that I’m here with my family now,” Watkins said. “But it’s a bittersweet moment because I’m not totally free, this is not over yet.”