Aug. 10, 2021 By Christian Murray
A man who had been in prison for more than 30 years walked out of a Queens court free Monday after the District Attorney reinvestigated his case and found that key witnesses gave false testimony.
Carlton Roman, 59, was convicted and sentenced to 43 1/3 years in prison after being charged for the fatal shooting of Lloyd Witter and the attempted murder of Jomo Kenyatta at a house in Jamaica on March 16, 1989.
Roman said he was with his fiancée and infant daughter at the time of the killing.
However, two key witnesses in the case were later found to provide false testimony and Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Roman’s legal team filed a joint motion to vacate his conviction.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Michelle Johnson dropped all charges Monday based on the inconsistent evidence and said the criminal justice system in Queens and throughout the nation must do better.
“This shouldn’t happen. This shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Johnson said.
Roman expressed relief upon learning of his freedom.
“I feel fantastic, I feel great,” Roman told reporters. “Absolutely fabulous. It’s been 31 years. Anybody here can imagine what it feels like to be literally in hell, and this is my first 10 minutes out. I’m at a loss for words.”
Roman was convicted after being identified as the killer by Kenyatta and Paul Anderson, who lived at the Jamaica house where the shooting took place. Anderson was found by the police at the time of the killing bound with telephone wire and handcuffed, and in close proximity to Witter’s body.
Police found no DNA or ballistic evidence linking him to the shooting. Roman, who had no criminal record, testified at trial that he was not involved with the shooting. Nevertheless he was found guilty.
Roman submitted his case for re-investigation to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office in 2013 and 2018, but the convictions were left unchanged
Anderson, however, in 2019 recanted his testimony and stated that Roman was not one of the shooters and that he had falsely accused him. Anderson said that he had not seen Roman at his house the entire day of the crime
The Queens DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit, formed by Katz soon after she took office, began its investigation in April 2020.
During the course of the initial police investigation and CIU investigation, Anderson provided at least 6 distinctly different versions of how the shooting occurred, and most were inconsistent with the facts of the crime.
“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,” Katz said in a statement.
“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.”
There were several other inconsistences in the case.
For instance, Anderson’s initial description of the shooter that he gave to a police officer did not look like Roman.
A new witness, who was friends with Anderson, Kenyatta, and Roman, described the narcotics activity of Anderson and Kenyatta, which provided substantial motive for others to have committed the crime.
Authorities also said that new evidence raised doubt about the testimony of Kenyatta.
“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,” Katz said.
“When we find miscarriages of justice, we do everything in our power to correct them quickly.”