A New York City court freed Guyanese-born Prakash Churaman after the prosecutor, the District Attorney (DA) dropped a murder charge against him. He was freed last week. His case has been followed by several city publications as well as in San Francisco.
According to reports in the NY Post and NY Daily News, Churaman spent almost eight years in the Queens criminal justice system as his lawyer attempted to free him. A movement to free Churaman was formed. It included two NYC councilmen and several activists. The NY Post and other publications carried photos and reports of activities to free Churaman.
Reports say that in 2014, Churaman was a 15-year-old immigrant from Guyana living in Rosedale, Queens, when he was arrested and charged with the murder of 21-year-old Black American Taquane Clark who was involved in a botched home invasion in South Jamaica.
Churaman was arrested and incarcerated while awaiting trial. He was a minor at the time and charged as an adult.
In a trial in 2018, Churaman was convicted based on testimony from an “earwitness,” or hearsay evidence, and he was sentenced to nine years to life in prison. His lawyer appealed. The Appellate Division overturned the decision in June 2020, ordering a retrial.
Just weeks before the retrial, the DA decided to dismiss the charges altogether. “The truth will always prevail no matter what adversity life brings,” Churaman told reporters.
During his trial, Churaman was offered a plea deal that he rejected, claiming innocence. Churaman refused to admit guilt for a crime he says he never committed.
The DA said Churaman had a valid defence. The police who gathered evidence against Churaman are known to withhold evidence of innocence in another case and the DA failed to disclose the information to the defence. A South Asian and Indo Caribbean group, DRUM, that combats racism accused the NY police officers of destroying the life of young Churaman who was kept away from his family for eight years.
Churaman said he will file a lawsuit against the city for $25 million. But for now, he is enjoying his freedom after being away from his family for so long.