A man imprisoned for nearly two decades for murder will have his conviction tossed — thanks to authorities’ shoddy handling of his case, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said Friday.
Bladimil Arroyo, 39, has been incarcerated since 2001 for the Sept. 16, 2001, slaying of Gabor Muronvi, who was killed while walking with a friend near a seedy strip club in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, during a botched robbery.
An investigation by the DA’s Conviction Review Unit found that Arroyo was “deprived of a fair trial because the only direct evidence against him consisted of a confession that included a false fact likely transmitted to him by police — that the victim was stabbed rather than shot — and certain detective notes were not disclosed to the defense,” the DA’s office said.
A doctor had initially informed police that the victim died from a stab wound to the heart — and Arroyo confessed to knifing the victim.
But the medical examiner determined the next day that an autopsy showed the cause of death to be a single gunshot wound to the chest and that Muronvi never suffered any stab wounds.
Arroyo is the 25th person to have his conviction vacated by Brooklyn’s CRU since it was established in 2014.
“While we cannot say that Mr. Arroyo was not involved in this crime, a thorough investigation by my Conviction Review Unit has concluded that he was deprived of a fair trial, and this undermines our confidence in his conviction,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
Arroyo had been busted in the killing a short time after it happened, when police followed a car that left the crime scene. The car led cops to Arroyo and a co-defendant.
The same day Muronvi was killed near the sleazy, now-defunct Sweet Cherry strip club, Arroyo confessed to cops that he was trying to rob the pals and that he stabbed the victim “in the upper chest” during a struggle. Arroyo was charged that afternoon with murder and other related counts.
The murder case proceeded, and Arroyo’s confession was used at trial, “with the prosecutor suggesting to the jury that the defendant confessed to using a knife in an attempt to minimize his culpability in the fatal shooting,” the DA’s office said.
The victim’s friend, who survived the attack, initially told cops that there were three assailants, but he testified that there were only two and did not identify Arroyo at the trial.
In November 2002, Arroyo was convicted of second-degree murder, attempted robbery and assault and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
His co-defendant pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was sentenced to nine years in prison.
“Confirmation bias and nondisclosure of certain police documents led to this outcome, and I am confident that policy changes that have been made over the ensuing years and additional recommendations by the CRU will ensure that these mistakes are not repeated. I remain fully committed to correcting every past injustice that took place in Brooklyn,” Gonzalez said.
The CRU investigation revealed that police accounts surrounding Arroyo’s confession “were incomplete at best and misleading at worst because they did not explain how Arroyo came to describe erroneous facts that police believed to be true at the time.”
It was also discovered that several documents, including detective notes about the surviving victims’ identification of another individual as a possible attacker and notes containing a detective’s initial statement that there were three people in the car that left the scene, were not turned over to the defense.
“These documents would have helped the defense argue against the prosecution’s theory that only two attackers were involved in the crime, a theory that validated the defendant’s confession,” the DA’s office said.
The CRU has found that of the cases reviewed so far, 60 convictions are just. It’s not clear how many have been reviewed to date.
A total of 100 cases are pending review by the unit.
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