NBC’s ‘Dateline: In the Shadow of Justice: A Bronx Tale’ chronicles how Eric Glisson was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in mid-1995 for the January 1995 murder of a Bronx cabbie. The episode highlights his quest for justice from prison and how he kept fighting for almost two decades before he was able to vacate his conviction. So, how did Eric do it, and where is he now? Let’s find out.
Who is Eric Glisson?
Eric Glisson’s nightmare began on January 19, 1995, when a 43-year-old Senegalese immigrant, Baithe Diop, was found shot dead in the Bronx by murderers who stole his cell phone and cash. Baithe was a livery cab driver for New Harlem Car Service and was shot around 4:30 am while picking up his last ride. Weeks after the murder, Miriam Tavares, an alleged drug addict, came forward and told the police she saw the crime from her bathroom window, knew who the shooters were, and heard what they said.
Out of the six people she helped identify, one was 18-year-old Eric. Based on that testimony Eric was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 25 years to life in September 1997. Eric recalled, “I didn’t believe that I would be convicted of a crime that I didn’t do,” Glisson told Dateline. “It’s like your heart just — just melts. It just dissolves. You actually think that you know, they read the wrong verdict. That this can’t be true.” In all, four men and a woman would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Baithe’s murder.
A sixth was charged but acquitted in the cab driver murder, but sentenced in another killing that police believed was related to the crime. After serving almost 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Eric was feeling hopeless by 2006. He had exhausted all his appeals and did not know what to do. This was when he met Sister Joanna Chan, a Catholic nun who volunteers at Sing Sing and is known to inmates as “Grandma.” Eric recalled, “I told her, ‘Grandma, I just lost my last appeal. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’”
Sister Joanna said, “I always say, ‘Eric, let’s keep the faith. You know that there’re many sisters praying for you.’ The empathetic sister contacted the only lawyer she knew — Peter Cross. Skeptical at first, Peter soon became convinced there was more to the story than the case as told by police and prosecutors. He visited the crime scene and determined Miriam — the witness against Eric — was lying to the police. She could not have possibly seen and heard the murder from her bathroom window 100 yards away.
Peter was surprised that the detectives never checked out her story. Peter stated, “There’s no doubt this woman was lying. She said from her bathroom window she heard these conversations going on inside the car. I mean, it’s just incredible testimony.” However, Miriam died of a drug overdose in 2002. But casting doubts on a late witness’ testimony used in a more than decade-old murder was not enough to free Eric. Peter and his incarcerated client had to find out who actually gunned down the cab driver to ensure his freedom.
Where is Eric Glisson Now?
After years of trying, Eric Glisson had a lead. He obtained some documents in 2012 through the Freedom of Information Act that showed the murdered cabbie’s cell phone had been used just minutes after the murder. The calls went to relatives of two members of the notorious Bronx Sex, Money, Murder (SMM) gang — Jose “Joey Green Eyes” Rodriguez and Gilbert “Gorgeous Indian” Vega. Eric said, “It turns out that the police and the District Attorney had all the evidence at their disposal to solve this crime from the beginning.”
— Dateline Producer (@DatelineNBCProd) June 6, 2014
In a last bid of desperate attempt for freedom, he wrote to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, arguing he had the evidence that someone else killed the cab driver. The letter was addressed to a prosecutor who no longer was in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. By an amazing stroke of luck, his letter ended up on the desk of Investigator John O’Malley — the detective who was assigned with breaking up the SMM gang a decade before. Jose and Gilbert had co-operated with his investigation and confessed to killing a Bronx cabbie after each of them shot him once during a robbery attempt.
Eric recalled his conversation with John during the latter’s visit to Sing Sing — “Immediately John just stood up and he asked me, ‘Did you write this letter?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ He shook my hand. And he said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘Sorry for what?’ He says, you know, ‘I know you’re innocent.’ Eric added, “When he said that, I said, ‘You — what are you talkin’ about, sir?’ He said, ‘Listen, I know the guys who committed this crime.’” John signed an affidavit saying he and the other four convicts were innocent of Baithe’s murder.
Eric was released from prison on bond in October 2012 and had the charges against him dropped on December 13, 2012. After languishing in prison for nearly two decades, former inmate 97A7088 was finally free. He said, “You’re not gonna convict me for something that I didn’t do and just expect me to accept it. I’m gonna fight to the end. I’m a fighter.” Eric received $8 million in settlement in April 2016 from the federal civil rights lawsuit he filed in 2014. He further received $3,890,000 in settlements from the New York Court of Claims.
Since then, he had moved on and reunited with his daughter Cynthia. She was a week old when he went to prison and was nearly 18 when he was released. He had also finished the college degree he started in prison and opened a juice business, ‘Fresh Take.’ The 46-year-old stated, “I knew I had a fresh take on life. I’m free now. I’m no longer the victim, I’m the victor. I won. I don’t have any animosity toward anybody, except the people who grow strawberries and raise the prices.”