2 Convicted in 1987 Killing Are Expected to Be Set Free
May 14, 2001
By DEXTER FILKINS
fter 14 years of waiting, two Brooklyn families had something to celebrate yesterday. Two men, Anthony Faison and Charles Shepherd, are expected to be released from prison today after being convicted in the 1987 murder of a livery driver, a crime it has become increasingly clear they did not commit.
Ronald L. Kuby, a lawyer for the two men, said yesterday that he had been told by prosecutors in the Brooklyn district attorney's office that Mr. Faison, 35, and Mr. Shepherd, 38, would be freed, following the confession of another man. Mr. Kuby said the man was arrested on Friday in the killing and confessed some time after. The lawyer said the two men had been convicted largely on the testimony of a woman who later admitted lying on the witness stand to get reward money.
Mr. Kuby said he anticipated that the pair would be released today at a hearing in front of Justice Robert S. Kreindler of State Supreme Court. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, declined to comment yesterday but said his office would make a statement today. A police spokesman confirmed the arrest of Arlet Cheston, whom Mr. Kuby said confessed to the murder for which Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepherd served time. Their imminent release was reported yesterday in The New York Post.
For the families of the two men, the prospect of being reunited with their loved ones outside prison walls was tempered by the pain of the long wait. "The tears just keep coming; they are tears of joy," said Stacy Shepherd, Mr. Shepherd's mother. "It's so sad that it had to take 14 years for my son to be released. We tried to tell them, but no one would listen."
Mr. Kuby and Mark Race, a private investigator who worked on the case, said the two men's conviction stemmed largely from the false testimony of the prosecution's primary trial witness, Carolyn Van Buren. Ms. Van Buren testified that early in the morning on March 14, 1987, she saw Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepherd surround a livery cab in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, driven by Jean Ulysses, a 46-year-old immigrant from Haiti. Ms. Van Buren testified that she watched Mr. Faison shoot Mr. Ulysses in the head.
But in later interviews, she said she had made up her story to claim $1,000 in reward money. Ms. Van Buren, who said she was a heavy cocaine user at the time, said she had been persuaded to lie by another man who had blamed his failure to get a construction job on the men.
"I never seen them do it," Ms. Van Buren said in a newspaper interview in 1999. "I sent innocent men to jail."
The release of the two men would also be a triumph for Mr. Race, a private investigator who agreed to look into the case two years ago, after receiving a letter from Mr. Faison. In the more than 500 hours Mr. Race said he had spent on the case — at no charge — he documented Ms. Van Buren's new testimony and located Mr. Cheston. Mr. Race said he also tracked down the man who he said had admitted persuading Ms. Van Buren to lie.
Mr. Race said he was convinced by Mr. Faison's letter, in which he said he had written tens of thousands of letters proclaiming his innocence and asking for help. "It was the determination of this kid, how much he believes in what he is doing, how strongly he felt he got railroaded," Mr. Race said. "He just wanted someone to listen to him." Mr. Faison had been sentenced to 20 years to life for the killing, and Mr. Shepherd 15 years to life.
Mr. Race and Mr. Kuby said that as they looked into the prosecution's case against Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepherd, they determined that Mr. Ulysses' murder had unfolded in a way different from how Ms. Van Buren had described it. On the witness stand, Ms. Van Buren testified that she had seen Mr. Faison walk around to the driver's side of Mr. Ulysses' car and shoot him as Mr. Ulysses climbed back inside.
But Mr. Kuby said the evidence gathered by the police suggested that Mr. Ulysses had been shot from behind by someone who had entered the cab from the rear right door. Mr. Ulysses' bullet wound was on the right side of his head. When investigators looked at his car, all the doors were locked — except for the one on the rear right-hand side. The police recently matched fingerprints found at the scene to those of Mr. Cheston, Mr. Kuby said.
Last evening, the families of Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepherd were preparing for their release. Rudine Faison, who said she never stopped believing in her husband's innocence, said she hasn't decided yet what she will say. "I just want him home," she said.