NEW ORLEANS — Three men imprisoned since the 1990s for a fatal drive-by shooting in New Orleans were released Wednesday.
Kunta Gable and Leroy Nelson were 17 when they were arrested shortly after August 22, 1994 in the death of Rondell Santinac in the Desire residential area of the South Louisiana city. Bernell Juluk, then 18, was also arrested along with them.
The men were released on Wednesday by a state judge who overturned their convictions, acting on a joint request from defense attorneys and the Civil Rights Division of District Attorney Jason Williams.
The motion described numerous issues with the original case. Among them, the state said the state has not revealed any evidence undermining the case against the men.
The motion also said the jury was unaware that officers Len Davis and Sammie Williams — the first officers on the scene — were known to hide the identities of perpetrators and manipulate evidence at murder scenes at the housing project to cover up drug dealers they were protecting.
Davis was later convicted of arranging the death of a woman who filed a complaint against him in an unrelated case and faces a federal death penalty.
The motion also said the only witness to the shooting, Samuel Raiford, did not initially describe three suspects, adding, “the first time three perpetrators have been named by anyone has been by Len Davis after the three suspects were apprehended.”
The teens were arrested a short time after the shooting, but there were no signs of guns or casings in their car, according to the 24-page motion.
Attorney General Williams said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon that there was extensive documented evidence of Davis’ unlawful misconduct while operating “under the color of the law.”
“He engaged in illegal drug trafficking, framed those who stood in his way, and went so far as to order the murder of a private individual who dared to report his systematic abuses,” Williams added. .
Juluke’s lawyer Michael Admirand said in an emailed statement after the release that they were grateful to the court, the prosecution and others for their work “in correcting this grave injustice”.
“I am relieved that he has finally been vindicated, although I am discouraged that it has taken so long,” Admirand said of his client’s newfound freedom.
The lawyer added that Juluk had maintained his innocence from the time of his wrongful arrest.