The following article by Fernando Bermudez was published by the New York Times on November 13, 2014.
Fernando Bermudez spent 18 years prison after being convicted of murder in 1991, before being found innocent.
Married with three children, he earned a bachelor's degree in
behavioral science and is considering going to law school. As a
speaker, he has given more than 250 talks in the United States and
Imagine yourself happy, on the verge of a career, promotion or
meaningful relationship, then suddenly trapped in prison, fighting for
freedom and your sanity over a crime you did not commit.
In 1991 I never imagined this would happen to me when I was arrested,
convicted and incarcerated for murder. My wrongful conviction stole
over 18 years of happiness for my family and I until Justice John
Cataldo of State Supreme Court in Manhattan dismissed the charges and
declared me actually innocent in 2009. He ruled that the police and prosecutors had used perjured testimony and illegal identification.
I wrestled with many fears during my incarceration, surrounded by
violence. But my greatest fear was that I could die in prison
maintaining my innocence. Year after year, I witnessed the parole board
deny release to inmates who maintained their innocence, like one friend
who died in prison after being denied parole every two years. Others
used drugs to numb the painful reality of being trapped while innocent.
If I had stayed in prison, I would have been eligible for an
appearance before the board this year. How would I have passed through
the eye of that legal needle? I often thought. Exonerating evidence had
long been accumulating since 1992. As an innocent man I would have
poured my heart out to them with the truth that I was willing to die
for. Daily, I was mentally and physically tortured with thoughts that a
parole board would consider me in denial and reject my freedom.
Luckily , after years of fighting, with the help of pro bono lawyers,
I won my case, which prosecutors never appealed. But the horrible,
looming dilemma I faced still pains me.