Emmanuel Mervilus, now 29-years old, no longer takes his freedom for granted.
On the fateful night in October 2006, he said he was waiting in line at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Broad Street, near the downtown Elizabeth train station, waiting to buy an apple juice. At his trial in February 2008, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office argued that he was even closer to the train station, where he and his two accomplices were assaulting a 26-year old man, slashing him with a knife, and robbing him of his backpack.
Mervilus maintained his innocence, and asked to take a polygraph examination – according to prosecutors, he failed it. They then used that evidence during his jury trial to convict him ofarmed robbery and aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 11 years. (His alleged accomplice was tried and convicted on a theft charge and sentenced to 4 years. The third man was never found.)
Inside the Youth Correctional Facility and the South Woods State Prison, Mervilus said he traded punches for respect, all the while fighting to clear his name. On the outside, his mother was losing a battle with cancer, with the stress of his prosecution and incarceration speeding her death.
Two years ago, the New Jersey Appellate Division overturned his conviction and sent his matter back to the Trial Division for a new trial, finding that the “polygraph expert” gave improper testimony before the jury. In January 2013, it took a jury 40 minutes to acquit Mervilus of all charges.
Among other things, there were serious inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s testimony. Notably, when asked to identify his attacker in the courtroom, he couldn’t – he pointed to someone else. Mervilus’ lawyer called it “ironclad reasonable doubt.”
Mervilus is more frustrated than angry, but says that he “believes in the justice system now.”
For more information, see the Star Ledger article entitled, “Wrongly convicted, Elizabeth man spent 3 years in prison.”