CAMDEN, NJ — The county announced Tuesday it will not seek to retry two men who have spent almost a quarter-century in prison for a fatal shooting that claimed two lives in Camden.
The county will file a motion to dismiss the indictment against Kevin Baker and Sean Washington, who were convicted of the fatal shooting in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison, Acting Prosecutor Jill Mayer said in a statement.
The county prosecutor’s office said it also intends to retract its notice of intent to appeal the case to the New Jersey Supreme Court.
The fatal shootings of Rodney Turner, 35, and Margaret Wilson, 40, outside the Roosevelt Manor Apartments took place on Jan. 28, 1995 — exactly 25 years and a week ago.
“I just got off the phone with Sean’s mother...the families of both Sean and Kevin are thrilled,” Lesley Risinger, director of the Last Resort Exoneration Project, told TAPinto Camden. “We’re very grateful to the Attorney General and Camden County Prosecutor for this result. It’s what we’ve been working and praying for, for a long time.”
With the help of Seton Hall students, Risinger, and her husband D. Michael Risinger, proved critical in the case of the two men.
In addition to rifling through transcripts, the team at Last Resort Exoneration Project — based out of the Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark — spoke with witnesses, met with firearms experts and uncovered new evidence in the case.
The Risingers also represented Baker in court proceedings, at which both men made multiple appeals in the past two decades.
Both Baker and Washington are 48 and have been held at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
Baker makes a quarter-century in prison this month, and Washington would have made the same anniversary in March.
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) said in a statement that over the past 25 years it successfully defended the convictions of the men “through multiple layers of state and federal appeals."
The CCPO said the decision, which it consulted with the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability within the Attorney General’s Office for, was made after consideration of the recent Appellate Division opinion reversing the convictions of Baker and Washington and granting them new trails.
Prosecutors in Camden County, “disagrees with the Appellate Division’s basis for a new trial” but “respects the decision of the court.”
It also noted that the Appellate Division did not declare the two men “actually innocent” or find error in the initial prosecution.
The CCPO said that in deciding to dismiss, it considered, “the totality of the circumstances, including the passage of time and the impact it would have on re-trying the defendants and proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Risinger said she does not know when Baker and Washington will be released.
She added, “Kevin and Sean are going to need help in adjusting to an entirely new situation, but it's a very good set of issues to be facing.”