A Connecticut man who served 28 years in prison for a 1994 shooting that killed a baby, paralyzed her grandmother and shocked a community saw the charges against him dismissed Tuesday by a judge, who previously ruled he had been wrongly convicted due to missteps by police and prosecutors.
The dismissal of Adam Carmon’s case came after New Haven State’s Attorney John Doyle Jr. revealed in court that prosecutors were dropping murder and other charges instead of seeking another trial.
“I finally feel validated,” Carmon, now 51, told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. “Today just has a stamp of what’s been known from Day One — that I had nothing to do with a child being murdered in 1994.”
But, he added, “My name’s been tarnished. … I have to live with that the rest of my life regardless of what transpired. … Right now I’m just working, trying to piece the pieces of my life back together.”
The crime stunned many in New Haven and drew statewide attention to the problem of urban gun violence. A gunman fired more than a dozen shots from a street into an apartment, killing 7-month-old Danielle Taft and paralyzing her grandmother, Charlene Troutman.
Shirley Troutman, Danielle’s mother and Charlene Troutman’s daughter, said she was upset at the case’s dismissal and still believes Carmon is the killer. Her mother died in 2008.
“In my heart of hearts he did it,” Troutman said in phone interview. “Until someone comes forward or they find another suspect, in my heart he did it. He gets to live his life. He gets to be free. But what about my daughter? What about my mother? They’re not here now. Now I have to mourn the loss all over again.”
Carmon was freed from prison in December after his convictions were overturned Nov. 30. He is now considering suing the city and the state for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. He also could apply for compensation that could total in the millions of dollars under the state’s wrongful conviction law.
“Obviously, when you spend 28 years in prison for something you didn’t do and your constitutional rights were violated, you should be compensated in some way and so we intend to pursue some kind of compensation,” said his lawyer, Doug Lieb.
Carmon’s case is one of more than a dozen involving overturned convictions that criminal justice reform advocates are citing in new protests alleging misconduct by city police and state prosecutors in New Haven dating from the 1980s to the early 2000s and calling for a federal investigation.
A jury convicted Carmon based on eyewitness and ballistics expert testimony that was later found to be flawed. And prosecutors presented no evidence of a motive for Carmon.
In November, Superior Court Judge Jon Alander in New Haven overturned Carmon’s convictions and ordered a new trial, saying prosecutors withheld evidence from the defense and police failed to pursue other suspects — including one who confessed to being the shooter but later recanted.
Alander also found eyewitness identifications of Carmon as the shooter were less than definitive, and noted the ballistics expert who linked the murder weapon to Carmon now says he could not reach the same conclusion based on technological advances over the past three decades.
The judge, however, stopped short of declaring Carmon innocent and ordered a new trial.
Alander dismissed the case Tuesday, after the state’s attorney said he would not pursue a new trial.
“Upon review, the state does not have enough evidence to proceed further,” Doyle, the top state prosecutor for the New Haven area, said in a statement.
Some evidence withheld from the defense, Alander said, showed two other men — purported drug dealers — could have been involved in the shooting. Prosecutors failed to disclose to Carmon’s lawyer that one of those men voluntarily went to the police station and implicated himself and another man in the shooting, the judge said.
The man told police he was involved in a fight with Charlene Troutman’s son and his friends over a drug debt outside the apartment earlier on the day of the shooting and wanted revenge, Alander’s decision said.
But police abandoned their investigation of the two other men when the firearms expert concluded a handgun that had been possessed by Carmon was the murder weapon.
And the man who went to police and implicated himself later recanted his confession, encouraged to do so by police investigators because his statements “did not fit their new found [sic] conclusion that the petitioner (Carmon) was the shooter,” the judge wrote.
Today, Carmon is working at a grocery distribution warehouse and said he will soon be marrying a woman he dated before he went to prison. He also continues to build a relationship with his 28-year-old son, who was a baby at the time of the shooting. A different woman is his son’s mother.