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Queens DA files motion to vacate murder charge on man incarcerated nearly 26 years

Melinda Katz
Posted at 3:28 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 17:34:49-05

QUEENS — A man who has been in prison for murder over a quarter century may see his conviction vacated after Queens DA Melinda Katz filed a joint motion with defense attorneys Thursday.

New witnesses, agreed-upon DNA analysis contradicting evidence and new DNA testing revealed evidence contradicting that which led to the 1995 conviction of the Ernest "Jaythan" Kendrick. The testing, which did not exist in 1995, revealed the victim's DNA was not found on or inside a black purse that was recovered in Kendrick's apartment and believed to have belonged to the victim.

“Mr. Kendrick’s case was submitted earlier this year to the Conviction Integrity Unit that I created at the start of my term,” Katz said in a statement. “This case is a prime example of why the CIU exists. We can’t stand idly by when new evidence is presented that undermines confidence in an original jury verdict."

The case was submitted for review by the Innocence Project — nonprofit legal organization that is committed to exonerating individuals who it claims have been wrongly convicted — along with WilmerHale Law Firm. A CIU re-investigation found the new evidence, testing and witnesses.

Court records show that on Nov. 30, 1994, a 70-year-old woman was stabbed twice in the back by someone trying to steal her purse on the grounds of the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City. Witnesses heard the victim, Josephine Sanchez, scream and looked out their windows.

A 10-year-old witness provided a description of the assailant, including his clothing and the direction he fled, to the police. Kendrick was detained by authorities several hours after the murder because he loosely fit the description provided by the 10-year-old child.

The child initially identified someone else when he viewed a live lineup which included Mr. Kendrick. However, after leaving the viewing room and under disputed circumstances, the 10-year-old changed his selection to Mr. Kendrick.

Kendrick maintained his innocence to the police but made several statements detectives felt were suspicious. During their investigation, police obtained a statement from a second witness who said he saw Kendrick fleeing the scene with a black purse under his arm.

“In addition to DNA testing, the CIU’s investigation included interviews of new witnesses and multiple crime scene visits by me and my team that demonstrated several trial witnesses were not reliable," Katz said. "Therefore, I have recommended Mr. Kendrick’s conviction be set aside and he immediately be released from prison.”