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Crime & Courts

Three men freed after 17 years behind bars for NYC killings

Three men who spent 17 years in prison for the killings of a livery cab driver and a FedEx executive have been freed after a judge granted prosecutors' request to vacate the second of their two murder convictions.

Michael Cosme, Devon Ayers and Carlos Perez were released Wednesday night.

They previously had been cleared of the 1995 murder of Bronx cab driver Baithe Diop after two jailed gang members confessed to it. But another conviction, for the murder of FedEx Corp. executive, Denise Raymond, had remained.

At trial, the two killings were closely linked; they took place in the same neighborhood, three days apart.

On Wednesday, prosecutors said the Raymond conviction should be vacated as well, citing problems with some of the evidence.

"I'm free! I'm free!" Cosme screamed when reunited with his family. He dreams of studying culinary arts and working "in a nice, upscale restaurant."

Ayers joyfully greeted his 18-year-old daughter, Barbara Santana, who was a baby when he went to prison.

Perez said he would also try to "make up for lost time" with his family.

"It's not easy for a man to be in jail for all these years for a crime he didn't do," said Perez, who wants to become a paralegal. "It hurts."

The indictment has not been dismissed. The judge set a hearing in 90 days to see if prosecutors could come up with new evidence to justify another trial.

Until then, the men remain free without bail.

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