Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz announced today that she will file a joint motion with the defense to vacate the conviction of Carlton Roman, who has been incarcerated for 32 years for the murder of Lloyd Witter and attempted murder of Jomo Kenyatta. This motion is based on newly discovered witnesses and evidence which contradict significant aspects of the trial testimony used to convict Mr. Roman.
DA Katz said, “I am committed to the fair administration of justice. In that pursuit, my office seeks to ensure that those who are guilty face appropriate consequences and those who have been wrongfully convicted are exonerated. Vacating Mr. Roman’s conviction emphasizes the fact that although these cases are difficult and strenuous to investigate, my Conviction Integrity Unit will do everything it takes to ensure that the right and just result is reached.”
DA Katz said she will ask the court to dismiss the charges at a hearing scheduled for 2 p.m. today, Monday August 9 before Justice Michelle Johnson, acting Administrative Judge of the Queens Supreme Court. The hearing will be held in Room 190 (the Ceremonial Courtroom), in the Queens Criminal Courthouse.
The hearing can be also accessed via livestream:
According to court records, on March 16, 1989, Lloyd Witter and Jomo Kenyatta were shot multiple times at a home in Jamaica, Queens resulting in Witter’s death and Kenyatta’s permanent confinement to a wheelchair. Paul Anderson lived at the house and was found by the police outside, bound with telephone wire and handcuffed, and in close proximity to Witter’s body.
Anderson and Kenyatta identified Carlton Roman, a close friend of Witter’s, as one of the shooters and the ringleader of the group.
After his arrest, police found no forensic or ballistic evidence linking Roman, whose alibi was corroborated by his girlfriend, to the shooting. There was also no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking Roman to the shooting.
Roman was tried, convicted and sentenced to 43 and 1/3 years for the crime based solely on the testimony of those two witnesses.
Roman, at the time a recent college graduate and honors student with no criminal record, testified at trial that he was not involved with the shooting.
He submitted his case for re-investigation to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in 2013 and 2018, but the convictions were left unchanged.
DA Katz’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) began its investigation in April 2020.
According to the motion to be filed in Court, CIU’s investigation uncovered new evidence that would have changed the outcome of the trial:
- A 2019 recantation by Paul Anderson in which he stated Roman was not one of the shooters and that he falsely accused Roman. Anderson confirmed that Roman was not one of the assailants and that he had not seen Roman at his house the entire day of the crime. During the course of the initial police investigation and CIU investigation, Anderson provided at least 6 distinctly different versions of how the shooting occurred—most are inconsistent with each other and the facts of the crime.
- Three new witnesses who undermine the credibility of the trial testimony of the Paul Anderson and Jomo Kenyatta:
- A retired police officer who received and documented Anderson’s initial description of the shooters, none of which fit Roman. No testimony or evidence offered at trial by either party referenced these initial descriptions provided by Anderson.
- A new witness, who was friends with Anderson, Kenyatta, and Roman, described the narcotics activity of Anderson and Kenyatta – and Kenyatta’s violent nature and profession as a drug boss, which provide substantial motive for others to have committed the crime.
- Another new witness who described the friendly relationship between the deceased victim and Roman and contradicted the trial testimony regarding statements supposedly made by Roman around the time of his arrest.
- New evidence further undermines confidence in the testimony of Jomo Kenyatta. Kenyatta falsely minimized his criminal history at trial and used various aliases to conceal his criminal activity.
DA Katz said, “During the Conviction Integrity Unit’s investigation, prosecutors and seasoned homicide detectives personally interviewed over thirty witness in different states and countries, painstakingly reviewed countless files, and conducted a thorough re-examination of the crime scene. This case, and the dedication of the CIU and the expeditiousness with which they conducted this investigation, exemplify that we are not so arrogant to think that the system doesn’t make mistakes. When we find miscarriages of justice, we do everything in our power to correct them quickly.”
Taken together, the new evidence creates a probability that the jury would have acquitted Mr. Roman. Under the standard articulated in C.P.L. § 440.10 (1) (g), this new evidence requires that Roman’s conviction be vacated. DA Katz stated, because the evidence no longer supports a credible case against Mr. Roman, we will dismiss the indictment in the interests of justice.
To date, the Conviction Integrity Unit has vacated eight convictions in the less than two years since its inception.
The Conviction Integrity Unit’s Investigation was conducted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Alexis Celestin and Queens County District Attorney Detective Investigators Perelene Kaalund and Ralph Maher, under the supervision of Bryce Benjet, Director.
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