Lazaro Burt

In August 1992, Wifredo Cesareo was shot and killed in Queens, New York.  Cesareo’s girlfriend stated that the incident had started earlier when a man had tried to grope her.  When Cesareo went to confront the man, he was shot.  In a lineup, Cesareo’s girlfriend identified Lazaro Burt as the shooter.  Burt was convicted of second-degree murder in 1994 and sentenced to 25-years-to-life.
 
After the conviction, the girlfriend told police she was high when she identified Burt, that she had made a mistake, and that she had since seen the real killer on the street – but she was told that it was too late.  In May 2002, another witness, Carl Drummond, identified the real shooter as Jarrett Smith.  Drummond had not wanted to testify at the time of the trial because he feared for the safety of his family.  Based on this new testimony, the prosecution and defense filed a joint motion to have Burt’s conviction overturned and the charges dismissed.  He was released in September 2002.
 
- Stephanie Denzel

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State:New York
County:Queens
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1992
Convicted:1994
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:25 to Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age:20
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No