“It’s been a long time,” Banks, now 26, told The New York Daily News. “Knowing that you’re an innocent man and that you were wrongfully (accused) to be out free now after all the years…It’s a huge relief.”
Banks had just turned 20 when the October 2008 fatal shooting of 21-year-old Timothy Smith occurred in Fresh Meadows, Queens. The case against Banks always was shaky as the prosecution’s star witness changed her testimony that she saw Banks shoot Smith before the first trial in 2010.
They used the woman’s grand jury testimony identifying Banks in subsequent trials. Banks’ third and final trial ended in March 2014 with a hung jury. After that, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort with a plea deal, agreeing to drop the murder charge if Banks copped to criminal possession of a weapon.
Banks refused to admit guilt to something he did not do, his lawyer Jorge Santos said. “He said, ‘I’m innocent I’m not taking it, I don’t care. I’m not admitting to having a gun, I didn’t do anything,’ ” Santos said.
After new information emerged in the case, pointing to another assailant, prosecutors released Banks in January, and formally dismissed his second-degree murder charge Wednesday.
In a curious gesture, Judge Gregory Lasak, instead of apologizing for his time in prison for a crime he did not commit, he suggested that Banks, “thank the district attorneys for dismissing the charges.”
“You persevered through a very tough time — be proud of yourself…You got a second chance at life,” Lasak added.
Banks, who was facing a potential life sentence, said he doesn’t harbor any grudges against the district attorney’s office, the police or the judge.
“It’s not their fault that they put me in handcuffs and accused me of this crime,” the gracious 26-year-old said. “Police is just doing their job. The district attorney is just doing their job.”
But Banks, who has enrolled in school to be a phlebotomist and works at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, said no one would ever understand what he went through.
“The heartache, the stress, the pain, the anguish. . . the police don’t know what you go through,” he said. “The district attorney don’t know what you go through. The judge don’t know what you go through. It was a bad experience that nobody should have to go through.”
The Queens district attorney’s office declined to comment on the dismissal.