ECBAWM Secures Record $17.5 Million Wrongful Conviction Settlement for George Bell

  • November 21, 2023

George Bell spent 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Now, New York City has agreed to pay him $17.5 Million, the largest the city has ever paid to settle a wrongful conviction suit.

Mr. Bell was wrongfully convicted along with two other co-defendants for the 1999 murder of the owner of a check-cashing store in East Elmhurst and an off-duty police officer. He was 19 at the time and faced the death penalty. In 2021, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Joseph A. Zayas overturned Mr. Bell’s and his co-defendants’ convictions after it was revealed that Queens District Attorney’s Office prosecutors never turned over a mountain of exonerative evidence linking the killings to a local robbery gang. Justice Zayas stated that the Queens District Attorney’s Office had “completely abdicated its truth-seeking role in these cases.”

The historic settlement comes after Mr. Bell reached a $4.4 million settlement of his suit against the State of New York pursuant to the Court of Claims Act.  ECBAWM partner Richard Emery noted that this landmark result “recognizes the horrible suffering that a young, innocent man went through facing the death penalty for three years and life without parole for 21 more.”

After being released, Mr. Bell stood in front of students at Hofstra University and said: “I’m just a 19-year-old kid from Queens who likes to spin records, and hang with my family, and live life — that’s all I wanted to do.”

Mr. Bell was represented by ECBAWM attorneys Richard D. Emery, Earl S. Ward, Debra L. Greenberger, David Berman, and Nick Bourland, along with Scott Stevenson.

“City to Pay Record $17.5 Million Settlement After Wrongful Conviction,” NYTimes
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