March 6, 2017
Jon-Adrian “J.J.” Velazquez was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life for the 1998 shooting death of Albert Ward, a retired police officer who owned and operated an illegal gambling spot in Harlem. Ward was shot and killed in the course of a robbery. Following the robbery, witnesses provided a description of the gunman as “a light-skinned black male with dreadlocks,” which prompted the search for “Mustafa,” a known drug dealer who fit the description. After learning that he was being sought by the police, Mr. Velazquez attempted to vindicate himself of the allegations by voluntarily subjecting himself to a lineup. Out of nine eyewitnesses present at the scene of the crime, three identified him at the lineup. Despite being a light-skinned Latino who had never had dreadlocks, even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and despite providing phone records which corroborated his alibi and showed that he was talking to his mother during the time of the crime, Mr. Velazquez was sentenced to 25 years to life. Since then, two of the witnesses have recanted, and the other eyewitness has expressed serious doubts. Mr. Velazquez and his alibi witness have both taken lie detector tests and have passed them. He is currently in his 19th year, and Jason Flom interviews him from inside the walls of Sing Sing Correctional Facility for this special edition of Wrongful Conviction.