Judges vacate Queens man’s 1993 murder conviction after decade-long fight to clear his name: ‘He never wavered’
After serving 26 years behind bars for the murder of his estranged wife — a crime he long claimed he did not commit — Michael Robinson has finally had his name cleared.
Robinson, 56, was convicted of murder in the 1993 slaying of home health aide Gwendolyn Samuels, who was killed in the residence of an elderly woman she was working for.
On Wednesday, that conviction was vacated in New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division when judges declared “there existed a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant” had DNA evidence been admitted at trial.
During the initial proceedings, Robinson’s defense attorneys argued he was with family and could not have killed Samuels. They implicated the woman’s then-boyfriend, who was 19 years old and had just found out his girlfriend was pregnant with their child.
The conviction hinged on the eyewitness testimony of Samuels’ patient, 88-year-old Alveina Marchon, who had significant vision problems including cataracts in both eyes, Robinson’s attorney, Harold Ferguson, said Wednesday.
The jury came back three separate times hopelessly deadlocked, but by 1994, Robinson, then 27, was behind bars in an Orange County, N.Y., prison where he would remain until 2019.
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“Even his appearances before the parole board he never wavered,” Fergson told the Daily News. “He has never wavered from, ‘I am innocent.’”
In prison, Robinson filed various motions in federal and state court, but they were all denied. He also paid for and passed a polygraph test.
In 2013, Robinson, who once aspired to be a police officer, filed a motion seeking post-conviction DNA testing of blood samples recovered from the crime scene and stains that were on Samuels’ sweater. Again, his motion was denied.
After many hearings, it was determined that the city’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was in possession of testable DNA under Samuels’ fingernails, which was 78.1 trillion times more likely to belong to someone other than Robinson.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, the matter was sent to Queens County Supreme Court, and the district attorney’s office will determine if they will retry Robinson.
For now, he is basking in the ruling.
“He is ecstatic,” Ferguson said. “It’s something he’s been looking forward to for thirty years. He is thrilled beyond belief.”