A man from Trinidad who ended up serving two years behind bars while awaiting trial for a 2017 murder he did not commit ended up walking out of a Bronx courthouse as a free man after his case was dismissed on Tuesday.
Virgil Mitchell, 34, was clearly elated as he was pictured leaving the courtroom with his defense attorneys by his side when his double-shooting case was formally thrown out by Justice James McCarty.
Mitchell, who is also dad to a three-year-old boy, said he was looking towards the future with optimism despite being locked up for the last two years at Rikers Island Jail in Bronx.
Prosecutors believed that Mitchell was innocent during a Hunts Point shooting near an annual Caribbean music festival known as Moksha on June 25, 2017 around 06:10 p.m.
Atiba Ramsey, 36, was killed in the gunfire while a second victim, Kenda Verwayne, 36, was wounded.
The District Attorney’s office began to re-investigate the circumstances after his lawyers urged prosecutors to take a second look at the case.
Mitchell ended up being wrongly convicted of the shooting after being picked out of a police lineup as a result of a Crime Stoppers tip.
But there was only one eyewitness who failed to provide accurate information.
There was also plenty of other evidence that exonerated him, the DA’s office said.
An anonymous 911 caller referred to the shooter as heavyset, weighing about 240 pounds and about 6-foot-2. Mitchell is 5-foot-9 and about 180 pounds, according to police records.
Several witnesses also placed Mitchell inside the heavily-secured Trinidadian festival.
They told prosecutors there was tight NYPD security with the use of metal detector wands at an event known as the “Holiday of Colors” in which those attending were splashed with paint.
Prosecutors also conceded that it was “highly likely” Mitchell’s clothes would have been drenched with paint and could not have “looked like he was wearing a white t-shirt” which the gunman was said to have been dressed in.
Prosecutors eventually conceded that the case against Mitchell was flimsy.
“The People’s assessment is that there is sufficient proof to support the position that the defendant is not the shooter,” prosecutors wrote in a dismissal memo filed Tuesday in Bronx Supreme Court.
“Virgil Mitchell’s physical attributes differ markedly from the description provided by witnesses,” the DA’s report says. “It is difficult to imagine how Mitchell could have gotten a gun into the festival such that he could have access to it later in the day given the tight security…”
Mitchell had no criminal record at the time of his arrest and had a steady job as a utilities worker for National Grid.
The judge praised both sides, calling the result “proof of the work the defense attorneys did,” and noting he was “proud of the work the district attorneys’ office did in keeping an open mind.”
Mitchell had been held without bail at Rikers on murder, assault and other charges since his 2017 arrest.
Another suspect was since identified through palm prints found on a vehicle at the scene.