Exonerated after serving 8 years for 2013 murder, a 26-year-old is indicted again in a NYC shooting

NEW YORK (AP) — A man who was exonerated after spending eight years in prison for a murder has been charged again — in a different fatal shooting.

Shamel Capers, 26, was indicted Tuesday on charges including attempted murder in connection with a July 23, 2023, shootout between two groups of young men in Queens that resulted in the death of Joshua Taylor, 19.

Dante Hunter, 25, who police say was the first to draw his gun, was charged with murder in Taylor's death, and a third man, Damone Miller, 21, was charged with attempted murder.

All three men were jailed without bail pending their next court appearances.

Capers' arrest came a year and a half after his conviction was vacated for the murder of 14-year-old D’aja Robinson.

D'aja was riding on a bus when she was caught in the crossfire in a gang dispute in May 2013, authorities said. Capers was convicted largely on the testimony of a gang member who said he saw Capers shoot at the bus.

Capers, who was 15 when D'aja was shot, always maintained his innocence but was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. His efforts to walk free were boosted when the witness who had named him as the gunman recanted.

Capers' conviction in the 2013 shooting was thrown out in November 2022 after the Queens district attorney’s office's conviction integrity unit spent two years reinvestigating the case.

“For there to be justice in the criminal justice system, and public faith in its outcomes, it is incumbent upon us as prosecutors to follow the facts to wherever they lead,” District Attorney Melinda Katz said at the time.

Katz said in a statement after this week's indictment, “In the case of D’aja Robinson’s murder, an exhaustive investigation and newly discovered evidence led us to conclude that Shamel Capers had been wrongfully convicted. The court agreed and the conviction was vacated.”

She added, “Nothing will shake our resolve to remove illegal guns and those who use them from our communities.”

Capers' attorneys, Elizabeth Geddes and Nadia Shihata, said in a statement, “Shamel has pled not guilty to the current charges, is presumed innocent, and intends to vigorously defend himself in a court of law.”

Attorneys for Hunter and Miller did not return calls seeking comment.

Karen Matthews, The Associated Press