In his remaining days as editor and publisher of the New York Daily News, Arthur Browne, who was with the paper for four decades, published a special feature on Innocence Project client Felipe Rodriguez’s nearly three-decade fight for freedom.
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.
Rodriguez twice waived his right to a parole hearing because he believed parole would not be granted unless he admitted guilt to the crime. With the Innocence Project’s help, he was released last January after his sentence was commuted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
In his feature, Browne describes many of the joys that Rodriguez has experienced in his first year of freedom. He landed a well-paying job with the help of the President of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council. He’s been able to spend time with his son, Felipe Jr., who was just three when he was wrongly convicted. And he has a new partner, Karen, whom he lives with along with her two children, 4 and 15.
Browne also hints that there could soon be new momentum in Rodriguez’s continued fight to prove his innocence. Read the full feature here and the editorial board’s take here.