Father of three serves another’s 15-year term

By Larry Neumeister The Associated Press

NEW YORK – A father of three who has served 15 years in prison for a murder that occurred here while he apparently was in another country was ordered released Thursday after prosecutors chose not to retry him.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled last year that Jose Garcia must be retried or freed because his defense lawyer failed to gather evidence for trial that Garcia was in the Dominican Republic when the killing took place in the Bronx on July 16, 1991.

Garcia’s new lawyer, Martin Klotz, said it would surprise him if his client were released because a 1999 deportation order remains lodged against the illegal U.S. resident.

The lawyer said he would work to legalize Garcia’s status in the United States so he could resume living with his ex-wife and their children, all of whom are U.S. citizens.

Klotz praised the judge for taking a careful look at evidence that Garcia could not have committed the murder, and he said he was “absolutely delighted” that prosecutors did not attempt a retrial, which they would have had to initiate within two months of the judge’s initial ruling.

The judge said it was “exceptionally troubling” that Garcia was convicted in 1993 at a trial based largely on the testimony of one witness.

The judge added that Garcia had a strong alibi, including documents that appeared to prove he was arrested in the Dominican Republic for traveling with false documents a day before the execution-style shooting of Cesar Vasquez.