Cecilia DowdFeb 16, 2018, 9:57 pmFeb 19, 2018, 5:38 pm

Man who served over 20 years in prison for 1994 murder in Freeport is free

Prosecutors: 47-year-old Joseph Jackson’s conviction vacated due to ‘unintentional error’

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MINEOLA — A Long Island man spent more than two decades in prison for murder, but now that conviction has been vacated.

“I just want to be surrounded by family right now, you know. See my mother. I haven't seen my mother in like five years,” said Joseph Jackson, a 47-year-old father of five and grandfather upon becoming a free man. “It's kind hard having your freedom snatched away from you and then given back to you.”

His 1997 conviction for murder has been vacated due to what prosecutors call an "unintentional error." The error was that several statements from witnesses were not turned over by prosecutors at his trial for the 1994 murder of Steven Jason. In those statements, one of the witnesses described the possible shooter of the murder as having a "dark brown" face. The murder happened in Freeport in 1994.

“I've been telling them I was innocent all along,” Jackson said.

“We come back here to this courthouse 20-something years later as older men … I've lived my life for the last 23 years and he's had no life,” said Defense Attorney Scott Brettschneider.

The road to freedom started with Jackson himself. He found out about the statements that had not been provided by prosecutors by doing his own Freedom of Information Act request with police. He then sent a letter to the Nassau County District Attorney Conviction Integrity Unit.

“Based upon everything, we felt that the conviction should not stand,” said NCDA Conviction Integrity Unit’s Sheryl Anania.

The murder happened in the vicinity of Sunrise Highway and Guy Lombardo Avenue in Freeport.

In court Friday, the judge said to Jackson, "Only you know, sir, if you committed this crime." Jackson told reporters that he did not, but that wasn't always his answer.

In 1994, Jackson signed a confession. When asked why he signed the confession, Jackson responded, "Because they had me in a room for 39 hours beating the hell out of me.”

In addition to his confession, there was testimony at the 1997 trial that did point to Jackson. First, the victim's girlfriend identified Jackson as the man she saw pointing a gun at her deceased boyfriend. In addition, Jackson's cousin testified against him by claiming he shot and killed Jason to prevent him from testifying against his close friend.

Prosecutors said Jackson will not be retried and are moving to dismiss the indictment.

As for Jackson, he said he's not angry.

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