On May 22, a judge in Suffolk County, Long Island overturned the 1976 murder conviction of Keith Bush, who has been represented by NYLS’s Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic for 13 years.
Bush was convicted of killing a teenage girl when he was 17 years old. For more than four decades, he maintained his innocence, and for 33 years—most of his adult life—he was imprisoned.
Distinguished Adjunct Professor Adele Bernhard, along with many of her students over many semesters, re-investigated the entire case. The clinic met all of the witnesses, found experts to reanalyze pseudo-scientific evidence used for the trial that can now be proved false, and dissected Bush’s false confession in light of new information about the police who conducted the interrogation and new psychological research concerning interrogation.
In addition, Professor Bernhard and the clinic discovered reports hidden for 40 years confirming that police were quietly investigating another suspect with direct links to the crime scene. Evidence indicates that the other man, now deceased, was the likely culprit.
In 2018, Professor Bernhard and the Suffolk County Conviction Integrity Bureau filed a joint motion to vacate Bush’s conviction. Their motion noted that all of the evidence originally used to convict Bush has since been disproved. On May 22, their request was granted.
The case attracted broad media attention, including a six-month, in-depth investigation by Newsday.
“Sometimes, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., the arc of the universe does bend to justice, and it has in this case,” Professor Bernhard told Newsday. “A wrongful conviction affects the whole community, and it takes a whole community to set it straight.”
Sample Media Coverage
- CBS News: “N.Y. judge overturns conviction of innocent man who spent 33 years in prison”
- News12 Long Island: “New findings clear LI man who spent 33 years in prison”
- Philadelphia Tribune: “N.Y. tosses murder conviction of man held decades in prison“
- USA Today: “He spent 33 years in prison for a murder conviction based on a coerced confession, concealed evidence, and biased detective“
About the Clinic
NYLS’s Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic represents a small number of clients who have been convicted of serious crimes in New York State but who present a colorable claim of actual innocence that cannot be proven through DNA evidence alone. New York Criminal Procedure Law §440.10 creates a pathway for such clients to request reversal of their conviction based upon newly discovered evidence.
The clinic has also worked with the Conviction Review Bureaus recently created by New York DAs, including in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Suffolk County.
Both Day Division and Evening Division students are eligible to participate. The clinic is led by Distinguished Adjunct Professor Adele Bernhard, who began her career as a public defender.