Va. Man Exonerated 50 Years After New York City Shooting Death

In 1964, Paul Gatling was wrongly imprisoned in the shooting death of  a man in New York City. CBS News reports Gatling, 81, was fully exonerated Monday.  Gatling was released from prison 40 years ago, but the crime remained on his record. Only 50 years after he was accused of murder has his name been clear. The entire time Gatling maintained his innocence.

Gatling was pushed to plead guilty decades ago when his family feared he would get the electric chair. This week at the request of a prosecuter, a judge exonerated Gatling. Gatling, a retired landscaper, has been cleared of any involvement in the 1963 shooting death of Lawrence Rothbort. The shooting took place in Rothbort’s home.

Gatling asked the prosecutor’s Conviction Review Unit to look into his case. There were questions surrounding the investigation and the fairness of the trial. Rothbort’s wife reported seeing her husband shot and gave a description of the suspect. Gatling, 29 at the time, was questioned after another man said he saw him in the area. It was later determined that the “witness” had offered testimony in other cases and was known to commit perjury.

Gatling entered court with the aid of a walking cane. He says he comes from a “civic-minded family” and this case has stopped him from voting on every level. The judge apologized while Gatling’s wife cried. Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson said,

“Gatling was a remarkable man. We’re here because Mr. Gatling would not let go of his demand to be deemed innocent.”

Here is hoping he has nothing but  peace in the coming years. His case speaks to many problems within the legal system. His life has been put on hold for decades and he can’t get that time back.  What he has reclaimed is his good name. Sometimes we have to lean on the truth and keep living.

Featured Image: Getty/Fickies

C. Imani Williams is a human rights and social justice activist. She writes to empower and give voice to those silenced through systematic oppression. Her work has appeared in Between the Lines, Michigan Citizen, Tucson Weekly, Harlem Times, Dope Magazine and various news and popular culture blogs. Follow the unapologetically black political culture critique @ and