Who Is Eric Glisson? The "Bronx Six" Member Was Exonerated After Nearly 18 Years In Prison For Murder
America's criminal justice system has become the topic du jour following the success of Netflix's true crime docuseries Making A Murderer, with real-life stories of criminal cases generating nearly as much buzz — and heated debate — then even 2016's presidential candidates. Dateline NBC will delve into three of the country's most notorious wrongful conviction investigations with its four-part series "In the Shadow of Justice," beginning Sunday. But who is Eric Glisson, the man at the center of the first case profiled by Dateline?
Glisson was convicted for the Jan. 19, 1995, murder of Bronx cabbie Baithe Diop after a woman named Miriam Tavares testified that she had seen and heard the murderers from her bathroom window. Glisson, who was sentenced to 25 years to life on Feb. 3, 1995, was one of six people Tavares pointed out. The group was quickly labeled "The Bronx Six." Glisson told Dateline he'd held out hope throughout his trial that the justice system would work and he'd be found innocent:
I didn't believe that I would be convicted of a crime that I didn't do. 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.
From New York's maximum-security prison Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Glisson relied heavily on the Freedom of Information Act to prove his innocence claims after his appeals were denied, he told Reddit users in June 2014 during an "Ask Me Anything" session. Glisson spent 11 years in prison before Sister Joanna Chan, nicknamed "Grandma" by Sing Sing inmates, made a phone call to attorney Peter Cross that would change Glisson's life. Cross became convinced of Glisson's innocence after he visited the scene of the crime and noted it would have been impossible for Tavares to have seen or heard anything from her bathroom window as it was 100 yards away.
However, it wasn't until 2012, after Glisson had been in prison for over 17 years that he was able to obtain undeniable evidence of his innocence. Cell phone records from Diop's mobile, which Glisson got a copy of through the Freedom of Information Act, revealed the phone had been used to call family of two Bronx Sex, Money, Murder gang members after the murder and the district attorney had known all along, NBC reported in 2014. By happenstance, a letter Glisson wrote to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York crossed the desk of Investigator John O'Malley, the man who'd heard Bronx Sex, Money, Murder gang members Jose Rodriguez and Gilbert Vega confess to killing Diop 10 years prior.
O'Malley, who told Dateline he'd had no idea someone was serving time for Rodriguez and Vega's crime until that time, signed an affidavit testifying to Glisson's innocence. Glisson would sit in prison another four months before prosecutors completed the legal process to set him and another member of the alleged "Bronx Six" free on Oct. 22, 2012. Glisson spent four months shy of 18 years in prison and has said there is no amount of money that could make that OK.
There's no amount of compensation that could "repay" for my time lost. ... I had to sleep in a dark 6x8 cell for 18 years and had my life dictated by correctional officers and be subject to three counts a day where you stand up and they count you like you were cattle or something.
Dateline has been following Glisson's case since 2012 when NBC reporter Dan Slepian was tipped off to the story from another inmate at Sing Sing.
Since his release, Glisson has started his own business —a juice bar he named Fresh Take Juice Bar in the Bronx.