At 14 years old, John Bunn went on trial for murder; the proceeding lasted just one day.
Accused in August 1991 of murdering a corrections officer, the Brooklyn, N.Y., teenager was convicted by a jury based on tainted evidence provided by former New York City Police Detective Louis Scarcella. Bunn served 17 years behind bars, and 10 more years afterward fighting to clear his name.
On Tuesday, that battle ended in Brooklyn, with Supreme Court Justice Shawn’Dya Simpson dismissing the murder charges wrongfully leveled against Bunn, now 41 years old.
During the court proceedings, Bunn was overcome with tears as he addressed prosecutors.
“Y’all had the wrong man this whole time, and you have [someone] out there running free,” he said. “Y’all had no right to do what you did.”
At one point, Bunn approached the bench to hold hands with Simpson.
“I am more than emotional about this day,” said Simpson, her voice cracking. “You were 14 at the time. This shouldn’t have ever happened.”
While the fight to clear his name is now over, it’s impossible to feel good about Bunn’s case. Now entering middle age, Bunn had his youth derailed for a crime he didn’t commit. WPIX 11 reports that Bunn taught himself how to read behind bars, and at one point, he stopped the attempted rape of a prison counselor. Still—the years he spent incarcerated are years he cannot get back.
According to the New York Daily News, Simpson herself outlined the horrific expediency of the injustice carried out against the then teenager. “This case was tried ... a jury was picked, testimony was given, and it concluded all in one day,” said Simpson. “I don’t consider that justice at all.”
Not only was the killer of the corrections officer Bunn was accused of murdering never found, let alone tried, but the detective who brought Bunn and another innocent man to trial for the case also has a lengthy record of allegedly coercing confessions, manipulating witnesses and giving misleading testimony.
As the New York Post reports, Scarcella stands by his shoddy detective work, telling the paper that he stands by “every one of [his] cases 100 percent.”
There has been no talk of punishing Scarcella or anyone else involved in the case.