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Bladimil Arroyo

Other Brooklyn CIU Exonerations
At about 3 a.m. on September 16, 2001, 35-year-old Cary Greene flagged down two police officers. He said that three black men had attempted to rob him and his friend, 37-year-old Gabor Muronyi, as they walked away from the Sweet Cherry strip club in Brooklyn, New York. Greene had a bloody knife, which he said he used to stab one of the attackers, but said he heard several gunshots after he fled.

Police found Muronyi lying on the street in a pool of blood near the Sweet Cherry club. His wallet and watch were on the pavement nearby. Six shell casings were found on the street.

Minutes after Greene said three black men attacked him and Muronyi, a police officer heard a radio call about “three male blacks wanted for assault” and stopped Nicolas Johnson at 44th Street and 5th Avenue. Police drove Greene there and he identified Johnson as his attacker. Johnson was arrested, but was later released after Greene said he was not completely sure and that “if the guy did not have a stab wound, then this would not be the guy.” Johnson did not have any stab wounds.

At about the same time, a police officer en route to the crime scene was approached by James Ortiz at 42nd Street and 4th Avenue. Ortiz asked what had happened. When the officer noticed that Ortiz’s hand was cut and he was holding a bloody napkin, he arrested Ortiz. Greene was driven to that location and identified Ortiz as the man who attacked Muronyi. Ortiz soon was released, however, when police decided he was not involved.

Almost immediately after the gunshots, two police officers, Michael Monteverde and Ronald Saez, who were at 42nd Street and 4th Avenue, saw a black Pontiac Grand Am speed past. Monteverde said he saw a white man in the rear passenger seat. The officers got in their car and followed the Pontiac to 455 42nd Street. As they pulled up behind the car, they saw three men get out and go into the building. They summoned backup support and waited outside. While they were waiting, they saw a man who was bleeding leave the building, get in the Grand Am, and drive away.

When more officers arrived, they went into the building and followed a blood trail to apartment 1R. They entered the apartment and followed the blood trail to the bedroom of 21-year-old Bladimil Arroyo. Arroyo said he had been with Eddie Lorenzo and that Lorenzo had been stabbed.

Police determined that Lorenzo lived in Staten Island and officers were dispatched to medical facilities there. Not long after, Lorenzo was arrested as he left St. Vincent’s Hospital. He had stab wounds in his neck and head.

At 5:25 a.m., police interviewed Greene, who said that he and Muronyi spent the evening eating pizza and barhopping. Shortly before 3 a.m., they left Sweet Cherry and walked down 42nd Street toward 3rd Avenue. As they passed an idling parked car with dark windows, they realized that they went the wrong way and turned back. As they passed the idling car again, the front passenger window lowered and a man yelled, “Do you have a problem?” Greene said he and Muronyi said they didn’t and kept walking. The car squealed its tires as it backed up and stopped near them. Greene said that three black men got out of the car with guns and demanded their wallets and valuables. He said a tall man from the back seat of the car approached him while the driver and a short man from the front passenger seat confronted Muronyi.

Greene said he took a knife from his pocket and opened it behind his back. The taller man demanded his wallet and when Greene tried to walk away, the man hit Greene in the head twice with a pistol. At that point, Greene said, he began stabbing the man. Greene said he then ran off and heard several gunshots behind him.

Detectives interviewed Lorenzo and Arroyo separately. Detective Robert Keating reported that Arroyo told him that he and Lorenzo were at Sweet Cherry and as they were leaving, a “Russian dude” brushed against Lorenzo and Lorenzo fell towards a table. Lorenzo glared at the man, but Arroyo said he told him to let it go and they left. Arroyo said that when they got to Lorenzo’s black Pontiac, they saw the two “Russian guys” walking up the street. Arroyo said he and Lorenzo got into Lorenz’s car. They drove past the two men and then backed up very quickly.

Arroyo said Lorenzo yelled, “What’s up now?” and then grabbed a handgun from the left side of the car. Arroyo said that he and Lorenzo got out of the car. Lorenzo ran toward the two men and hit one of them in the face with his right hand. That man pulled out a knife, repeatedly stabbed Lorenzo by the neck, and then ran away. Arroyo said that the other man turned and Lorenzo fired at least six gunshots. Arroyo said that by that time, he had gotten back into the car. He said Lorenzo jumped in the car and drove off, yelling at Arroyo for not helping him. Arroyo said they drove to his family’s apartment and went to his bedroom, where they tried to stop the bleeding from Lorenzo’s wounds.

About 10 a.m., detectives interviewed Lorenzo, who said that “two white guys” bumped into Arroyo at Sweet Cherry. When they were driving away, they saw the same two men from the strip club walking by. Lorenzo said Arroyo got out and began to fight with Muronyi. When Greene joined the fight, Lorenzo said, he got out, but Greene stabbed him. That’s when Arroyo pulled out a pistol and fired several shots, Lorenzo said.

After obtaining statements from Arroyo and Lorenzo, a police officer who had been at the hospital when Muronyi was pronounced dead came to the police station. He reported that a physician said Muronyi died of a stab wound to the chest.

At 12:45 p.m., Detective Keating interviewed Arroyo a second time. He reported that Arroyo spontaneously said he wanted to correct his statement. The detective later said that Arroyo now said he was carrying a knife when they went to the club. He said that Lorenzo saw a “Russian guy” wearing a chain on his neck and he decided he wanted the chain.

The detective said Arroyo said that they saw the Russians and that Lorenzo yelled, “What’s up now!” He said Lorenzo backed up the car rapidly and grabbed a pistol from the left side of the driver’s seat and they both got out of the Pontiac. The detective said Arroyo said he approached one of the men—Muronyi—and demanded his property while Lorenzo confronted the other man.

Muronyi took off his watch and dropped his wallet in the street. When Muronyi advanced toward him, Arroyo stabbed him “in the upper chest.”

Arroyo said that Lorenzo was hitting the other man (Greene) when the man pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Arroyo said Lorenzo then fired several shots. Arroyo said they drove off and that he threw the knife out the window. The two statements were not recorded, but not long after, Arroyo repeated the statement on video.

In the video, Arroyo demonstrated with his left hand how he stabbed Muronyi, and placed his right hand on his own upper chest to show the location of the stabbing. He said he “felt like shit” and that he did not want any of the property so he threw the chain and Muronyi’s wallet and watch on the street.

Police asked Greene to view two lineups, one containing Lorenzo and the other containing Arroyo. In the first, he identified Lorenzo as the man who attacked him and the man he stabbed. In the second, he was unable to identify Arroyo as being involved.

Officer Monteverde also viewed the two lineups. He identified Arroyo and Lorenzo as the men he saw leave the Pontiac and go into the apartment building. He said Lorenzo was the man who was bleeding and later left the building.

About 5:52 p.m., detectives re-interviewed Greene, who now said there were only two men involved, and that the smaller of the two went after Muronyi while the larger man attacked him. Lorenzo was a dark-skinned Hispanic, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighed 270 pounds. Arroyo was a light-skinned Hispanic, six feet tall, and weighed 200 pounds.

Arroyo and Lorenzo were then charged with murder, attempted robbery, assault, and illegal use of a weapon.

The following day, an autopsy was conducted on Muronyi. The medical examiner determined that Muronyi had not been stabbed. In fact, he had been shot in the back. The exit wound on his chest was a slit—which apparently had prompted the emergency room physician to say he had been stabbed.

The Kings County District Attorney’s Office proceeded with the case even though Arroyo’s confession—a detailed account of how he stabbed Muronyi to death—was contradicted by the autopsy.

In November 2002, Arroyo went to trial in Kings County Supreme Court. The prosecution told the jury that Arroyo’s statement about stabbing Muronyi was an attempt to minimize his involvement—that he had acted in self-defense—and that in fact he had shot Muronyi.

Greene testified and now said that he only saw two men get out of the car and neither was black. He identified Lorenzo as the man he stabbed after being pistol-whipped. Greene could not identify Arroyo as the second man. Arroyo’s defense lawyer attempted to undercut his testimony by questioning him about a prior conviction for hindering a prosecution. Greene claimed he had been forced to drive a friend who was wanted by authorities out of an upstate New York county to avoid arrest.

Officer Monteverde testified and said for the first time that he saw Arroyo through an open window of the Pontiac as it drove past him. He also now testified that only two, not three, men got out of the car in front of Arroyo’s apartment building.

Detective Robert Keating testified that Arroyo volunteered that he wanted to change his statement. According to Keating, Arroyo said he “left some things out” and had not told “the entire story.” Keating denied that he fed any information—specifically that Muronyi had been stabbed—to Arroyo. Although Keating said he told Arroyo that one person had been shot and one person had been stabbed, he testified that he did not say that Muronyi had been stabbed.

Keating read Arroyo’s initial statement to the jury, and a video of Arroyo making his final statement was shown.

On November 25, 2002, the jury convicted Arroyo of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree attempted robbery, and second-degree assault. At sentencing, Arroyo, asked if he had anything to say, apologized to Muronyi’s family and friends for their “tragic loss.” However, he added, “I do want you to know, your honor, that I’m not guilty of the charges…I was convicted of.”

Justice Gustin Reichbach sentenced Arroyo to 20 years to life in prison.

On January 27, 2003, Lorenzo pled guilty to first-degree attempted robbery. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.

In 2007, the New York Appellate Division upheld the convictions. In 2008, Arroyo filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was denied in 2010.

In 2017, Arroyo’s trial defense lawyer, Jay Goldberg, asked attorney David Cetron to re-examine the case. Cetron subsequently asked the Kings County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit to re-investigate.

On February 23, 2019, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez issued a 43-page report of the CRU investigation and filed a motion to vacate Arroyo’s convictions. Justice Matthew D’Emic granted the motion and the charges were dismissed. Arroyo was released from the courtroom.

The CRU report said that the re-investigation uncovered several errors, which “raise serious concerns about the integrity of the conviction.”

The report noted that the only direct evidence of Arroyo’s guilt was his “purportedly spontaneous confession, which was consistent with a false fact law enforcement believed to be true at the time defendant confessed (that the deceased had died of a stab wound to the chest) and which must have been supplied… by the interrogating detective.”

The report said that Detective Keating’s reports, statements, and testimony “concerning how the false confession originated… can be characterized, at best, as incomplete and, at worst, false and deliberately misleading.”

The report also said that the prosecution had failed to disclose detective notes about Greene’s identification of James Ortiz as the attacker of Muronyi. The notes also said that when Ortiz was stopped with a bleeding hand, he was with two others. The failure to disclose the notes may have deprived Arroyo of the opportunity to rebut the prosecution and “advance a viable theory of defense.”

In addition, detective notes reporting that Officer Monteverde initially said that three men got out of the car when it stopped in front of Arroyo’s apartment building was not disclosed. These, too, “may have deprived defendant of the opportunity to refute the prosecution’s case and advance a viable theory of defense,” the report said. Because of a belated disclosure to the prosecution and the defense of Green’s past conviction for hindering a prosecution, the defense remained unaware that he falsely testified at trial about the underlying facts of that conviction.

At Arroyo’s trial, Greene testified that he drove his friend, who was wanted by the police, out of town to Owego, New York. Greene claimed that the friend had held Greene hostage for seventeen hours, that he was armed with a knife, and that he had placed bombs in Green’s home that he threatened to detonate if Greene called police. Greene said he agreed to drive his friend out of town 100 miles to evade the police and then turned himself in to police.

The CRU investigation revealed that “Greene was not an unwilling victim forced to drive his friend out of town to Owego. Numerous witnesses confirmed that Greene devised and executed an intricate plan to help his friend escape and that Greene was not under duress.”

The report also said that Arroyo’s trial defense attorney was never given detective notes containing Officer Monteverde’s description of the passenger in the Pontiac, which did not match Arroyo.

“Together the errors completely undermine confidence in defendant’s conviction,” the report said. At the same time, the report said, “It is not the CRU’s position that defendant did not commit the crime, but rather that defendant did not receive a fair trial because the evidence upon which the prosecution relied was and is defective.”

Arroyo subsequently filed a claim seeking compensation in the New York Court of Claims as well as a lawsuit in Kings County Supreme Court. The lawsuit was settled in 2021, and Arroyo received $5.35 million. The compensation claim was dismissed in April 2022.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/7/2019
Last Updated: 9/23/2022
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault, Attempt, Violent
Reported Crime Date:2001
Sentence:20 to Life
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No