Black Man Jailed For 18 Years After Police Showed Wrong Photo, Seeks To Have Conviction Overturned

A Black man is hoping to have his conviction vacated after spending 18 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit due to a deceptive photo lineup, according to prosecutors.Sheldon Thomas was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and other counts in a 2004 Brooklyn shooting that left 14-year-old Anderson Bercy dead and another man wounded. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Thomas maintained that he wasn’t in Brooklyn on the night of the shooting, but police prompted a witness to choose that incorrect picture out of a lineup of suspects, according to a report from the Brooklyn district attorney’s conviction review unit obtained by the New York Times.

In the report, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said the image was of a man with the same name as Thomas and who had an address in the same precinct. Police investigators knew early on that they were different people, but were “intent on arresting the defendant” after Thomas had been previously arrested for pointing an inoperable gun at officers, the district attorney said.

After the 2004 Brooklyn shooting, investigators obtained the photo of the man with the same name to arrest the Thomas they wanted, the report states.

Thomas is scheduled on Thursday (March 9) to appear in court where Judge Matthew J. D’Emic will determine whether his conviction will be vacated.

The case was “compromised from the very start by grave errors and lack of probable cause to arrest Mr. Thomas,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement, noting the conviction was “fundamentally unfair.” “He was further deprived of his due process rights when the prosecution proceeded even after the erroneous identification came to light.”

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