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Ruddy Quezada

Other Murder Exonerations Worked on by Conviction Integrity Units
On October 19, 1991, 29-year-old Jose Rosado was killed in a drive by shooting as he stood on the street in Brooklyn, New York. The police believed that Rosado was an innocent bystander and that the shots were intended for a reputed drug dealer named John Reyes.

Two days later, police arrested 29-year-old Ruddy Quezada and charged him with Rosado’s murder. Police said that the shooting was in retaliation for a shooting earlier in the day when Reyes shot at and missed Quezada in a dispute over drugs. Sixto Salcedo, an associate of Reyes, witnessed the shooting. Reyes and Salcedo identified Quezada as a passenger in the car who fired the shots aimed at them that struck Rosado instead.

By the time Quezada went to trial in Kings County Supreme Court in March 1993, Reyes had been murdered and Salcedo did not want to testify. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, pursuant to a long-standing and secret policy, arrested Salcedo on a material witness warrant and kept him locked in a hotel room until the trial. He testified and identified Quezada as the gunman.

At trial the prosecution repeatedly stressed that Salcedo had “come forward” voluntarily to identify Quezada and did not disclose that Salcedo had testified only after he was arrested and imprisoned in a hotel room.

On March 15, 1993, Quezada was convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Quezada’s appeals were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Salcedo was deported to his native Dominican Republic after he was convicted of unrelated crimes. While there, he confided to a missionary that he had initially falsely identified Quezada because Quezada had been telling people in the neighborhood that Salcedo and Reyes were police informants. As the trial approached, he did not want to testify, but after he was arrested by police and kept isolated in the hotel, and he felt he had no choice. Salcedo recanted—in a sworn affidavit and in a videotaped statement—and said he had been locked in a hotel room until he testified.

In 2001, Quezada filed a motion for a new trial based on Salcedo’s recantation. In 2002, federal prosecutors disclosed that during an unrelated investigation, Wilfredo Caraballo, a prisoner serving multiple life sentences for contract killings, said that he—not Quezada—shot Rosado. However, Caraballo also said that Quezada had hired him to shoot Reyes and Salcedo.

Ultimately, Caraballo gave several statements to state and federal prosecutors admitting that he shot Rosado. However, when a hearing was held on Quezada’s motion for a new trial, Caraballo refused to testify and asserted his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. The prosecution said Salcedo’s recantation was unreliable because there was no evidence that he had been locked in a hotel room before his testimony.

In 2015, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, which had been re-examining the case for more than a year, discovered that Marie-Claude Wren, the prosecutor who handled the post-conviction proceedings, knew in 2004 that Salcedo was telling the truth about being locked up in a hotel room.

In May 2015, Wren testified that she had discovered a material witness warrant for Salcedo—confirming Salcedo’s account—in 2011. She had testified years earlier during Quezada’s post-conviction proceedings that there was no such warrant.

The Conviction Review Unit conducted an extensive review of Wrenn’s emails, going back to 2003. They found a December 2004 email from Wrenn to a supervisor saying; “I found a material-witness order for Salcedo, who was too afraid to testify, in the files. I put it on your desk.”

On August 31, 2015, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson asked that Quezada’s conviction be vacated and then dismissed the charge.

“Due to what we have uncovered, we will not continue with the hearing because to do so would be unfair to Mr. Quezada,” Thompson said in a statement. “Since we can’t try this case, we will no longer object to his release.”

Quezada, who had been incarcerated for nearly 24 years, was released immediately. A spokesman for Thompson said that Wrenn was leaving her job as a prosecutor. In 2016, Quezada filed a claim for compensation in the New York Court of Claims which he settled for $4.5 million in 2017. He also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of New York which was settled in Decmeber 2017 for $9.5 million.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/2/2015
Last Updated: 12/11/2017
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1991
Sentence:25 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:29
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No