Imprisoned 24 years, men granted new trials in fatal robbery
PASSAIC » Two long-imprisoned men were granted new trials Friday in a deadly 1993 video store robbery, after recent DNA tests on an important piece of evidence matched a man never connected to the case before.
Eric Kelley beamed and laid his head on his lawyer’s shoulder as a judge overturned his murder conviction in the death of store clerk Tito Merino. Co-defendant Ralph Lee would hear the news later: He was in a prison infirmary, recovering from gastrointestinal surgery.
Both are being held on $1 million bail as they await retrial, and a prosecutor indicated she may appeal the conviction reversal.
But for now, “I’m so happy that I don’t even know how to explain,” Lee’s father, Ralph Lee Sr., said as he left the court.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a very long time,” added Kelley’s daughter, Erica Mobley.
She was 9 when her father was arrested in a killing that so appalled gritty Paterson that the thenmayor said the case made him sick to his stomach.