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Innocence Project Applauds NY Governor Cuomo for Commuting Sentence of Man Who Has Maintained His Innocence While Serving Decades in Prison

Felipe Rodriguez (right) and his son Felipe, Jr. in 2000.

New York, NY – December 30, 2016)  Today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted the sentence of Innocence Project client Felipe Rodriguez, who has served 26 years in prison for a 1987 murder in Queens, yet always maintained his innocence. The Innocence Project has represented Rodriguez for more than a decade, and filed his application for commutation for the governor’s consideration earlier this year.  In addition to his longtime counsel at the Innocence Project, Mr. Rodriguez is also represented by attorney Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma of New York.

“Mr. Rodriguez has spent decades trying to prove his innocence. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s compassion, this courageous man will now be reunited with his family as we continue our work to bring him justice,” said Nina Morrison, a senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project.  “Mr. Rodriguez has an exemplary prison record. He used his time incarcerated to better his life,  to serve the community and to prepare for his potential release. The governor’s generosity combined with Mr. Rodriguez’s hard work while incarcerated should serve Mr. Rodriguez well as he begins to build his new life.”

Rodriguez was a 25-year-old married father of a toddler and worked for the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development when he was convicted in 1990 of the murder of Maureen Fernandez in Queens. His conviction was based largely on the uncorroborated testimony of a police informant who, unbeknownst to Rodriguez’s jury, had admitted in a taped interview prior to trial that he fabricated his story.

Rodriguez, who had no prior criminal record and was active as an auxiliary police officer, always maintained his innocence of the crime. A model prisoner, Rodriguez obtained his GED and took advantage of many training opportunities, earning the trust of prison officials to take on work responsibilities that required him to handle dangerous chemicals behind bars.

Rodriguez became heavily involved in the Catholic church while incarcerated and served as a spiritual advisor to other prisoners. He also led campaigns to get his fellow prisoners to donate their limited funds to buy holiday gifts for disabled children.

Notably, although Rodriguez, now 51, is now eligible for parole, he has twice waived his right to a parole hearing because he believed parole would not be granted unless he admitted guilt to the crime.

“Mr. Rodriguez is a man of exceptional character. We have full confidence that once released, his remarkable attitude and generous spirit—which he maintained in prison for more than two and a half decades—will carry over to his new life, his family and his community,” said Margulis-Ohnuma.

Mr. Rodriguez will not leave prison immediately but will be quickly evaluated for release, which should occur in the coming weeks.  Despite his incarceration, he remains close to his now-grown son, his sisters and his elderly mother.

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9 Comments

  1. JLK

    His conviction was based largely on the uncorroborated testimony of a police informant who, unbeknownst to Rodriguez’s jury, had admitted in a taped interview prior to trial that he fabricated his story.

    Did the prosecuting attorney know that the police informant was lying, and yet still pursued a conviction? Is anything being done to punish the prosecutor for this highly illegal and unethical abuse of power and position?

  2. jane bock

    I look forward to your receiving justice at last. I admire you very greatly and know you are an incredible Brave, good person.

  3. Sam

    I am sending all my love to this amazing man and his family. Thank you to everyone that made this day possible and I feel Felipes spirit here with me and I am there with you all. Sam, Uk

  4. Diane Walsh

    My son has been incarcerated for a crime he did not commit and which his co-defendant admitted in his own trial that he alone, not my son, was responsible for the death of the victim in this case. His statement was coerced by the Broward Sheriff’s Dept. as the victim’s stepfather worked there at the time.

    Wish someone could look into this case and open up this case and help to get him released from prison. He is presently incarcerated at South Bay Correctional Facility in South Bay Florida.

  5. God bless you folks for righting wrongs. We need you so much.. There are some bad lawyers, judges out there. there is no more innocent until proven guilty. they don’t want the truth, they want convictions. That is so wrong and money buys you Justice!!!

  6. ILUNGA ADELL

    Felipe Rodriguez is an inspiration. He was wrongfully cast into hell and didn’t allow that to turn him into a devil. Kudos to Governor Cuomo for giving Mr. Rodriguez back his freedom. I hate to think that the prosecutors knew this innocent man was wrongfully convicted on fabricated testimony. But I do. Shameful behavior by shameless people. But all’s well that ends well. I sincerely hope Mr. Rodriguez receives the maximum amount of financial compensation for the years that were so callously stolen from him. And bravo! to the Innocence Project. Mr. Rodriguez would still be in prison if you hadn’t taken up his cause.

  7. Nadine Broxton

    just happiness in my heart for this news …..i wish to all the innocent to get out in 2017 included my husband ….its time the truth comes up and corruption desappeared ….
    thank you to exist Innocence Project praying soon i will be able to help you …..

  8. MY NAME IS MS. WASHINGTON AND MY SON IS BEGIN HELD IN PRISON AND HE HAS COMPLETED HIS TIME IN PRISON, BUT THERE IS A JUDGE WHO TOOK 863 DAYS CREDIT AWAY FOR NO REASON HIM NOT KNOWING ABOUT THE DEAL MY SON HAD PREVIOSLY WITH A JUDGE WHO HAS PASSED ON. HE RECEIVED A 10 YEAR SENTENCE WITH 1 YEAR CREDIT AND HAS BEEN IN PRISON 6 YEARS 11 MONTHS, SO WITH THAT SAID ON A 9 YEAR SENTENCE YOU WOULD HAVE TO SERVE 7 YEARS 8 MONTHS AT 85%. TO DATE HE HAS 2,236 DAYS CREDIT PLUS WITH THE 863 DAYS TAKEN AWAY FOR NO REASON HE HAS MORE THAN ENOUGH CREDITS TO BE RELEASED. EVERY ATTONERY I SPEEAK WITH THEY ARE ASKING FOR$5,000.00 WHICH I DO NOT HAVE, I AM ON A FIXED INCOME OF JUST $889.40 PER MONTH. WITH THE PRISON SYSTEM HOLDING MY SON IN PRISON THIS IS CALLED DOUBLE JEOPARDY MY SON”S LIFE DOES MATTER, IF THERE IS SOME ONE OUT THERE AND CAN HEAR MY PLEAD FOR JUSTICE PLEASE CONTACT ME VIA MY EMAIL: [email protected]. I SINCERELY THANK AND APPRECIATE ANY HELP. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS.

  9. Jim

    Who is the attorney responsible for sending Mr. Rodriguez to prison?

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