Sunday, June 29, 2008

Isidore Zimmerman

His NYTimes' obituary
Published: October 14, 1983
Isidore Zimmerman, who spent nine months on death row and 24 years in New York State prisons for a 1937 murder he did not commit, died of a heart attack Wednesday, four months after winning $1 million from the state for his unjust imprisonment.
Mr. Zimmerman, a 66-year-old retired doorman, collapsed on a street near his home in Jackson Heights, Queens, as he returned from shopping, his lawyer, Alfred R. Fabricant, said yesterday.
Mr. Zimmerman, who was released from prison in 1962, had spent 20 years fighting for compensation for his ordeal, which he said included severe beatings, long periods of solitary confinement in ''strip cells'' and diets of bread and water.
He had asked for $10 million but was awarded $1 million by the State Court of Claims last May 31. He was paid on June 30 and, after deducting legal and other expenses, received about $660,000.
'Black Cloud Over Him'
''He bought a new car, he took a trip to the Catskills for a few days - that's about as much as he got to do,'' said Mr. Fabricant, a lawyer with the firm of Shea & Gould. ''He always said he had this black cloud over him.''
Mr. Zimmerman, who wrote a book, ''Punishment Without Crime,'' told in repeated lawsuits against the state of the injustices he said had been done to him.
The murder that led to Mr. Zimmerman's imprisonment occurred on April 10, 1937. During a robbery by a group of men at a restaurant on Manhattan's Lower East Side, a police detective, Michael J. Foley, was shot to death. Six men were arrested, and one of them, apparently to conceal his own involvement, falsely accused Mr. Zimmerman of supplying weapons to the gang.
Mr. Zimmerman contended he was innocent, but he was convicted with the other six of first-degree murder. Five of the men died in the electric chair and one died in prison. Mr. Zimmerman also was sentenced to death, but two hours before his scheduled execution it was commuted to life in prison by Gov. Herbert H. Lehman.
In 1962, with the aid of a lawyer, Maurice Edelbaum, who took his case without a fee, an appeals court overturned the conviction on the ground that a prosecutor in the office of Thomas E. Dewey, then the District Attorney, had deliberately used perjured testimony and had suppressed evidence that might have proved Mr. Zimmerman's innocence. After being freed, Mr. Zimmerman filed successive lawsuits against the state for compensation but these were blocked by laws granting the state immunity from suits based on prosecutorial actions, the 11th Amendment provision restricting citizen suits against the government and other legal barriers.
A private bill granting permission for Mr. Zimmerman to sue was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Hugh L. Carey in 1981, clearing the way for his successful lawsuit.
Mr. Zimmerman, who was married soon after his release from prison, is survived by his wife, Ruth.

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