A judge cleared the names of Eric Smokes and David Warren Wednesday, vacating their murder convictions and dismissing their indictment.

“It’s a great day. Unfortunately, it took us this long to get to this point,” Smokes said outside the courthouse in Manhattan.

What You Need To Know

  • Eric Smokes and David Warren were convicted for killing a French tourist on New Year’s Eve in 1987. Their names were cleared 40 years later

  • Their convictions were overturned by the Post-Conviction Justice Unit at the Manhattan district attorney’s office

  • Smokes spent 24 years behind bars, and Warren spent 20 years in prison

It was New Year’s Eve in 1987, just after the ball drop. A French tourist was walking with his wife west on West 52nd Street to catch the revelry in Times Square. He was mugged, fell into a coma and the 71-year-old died.

This was one of the 1,700 city murders that year.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said the NYPD made one teenage witness feel like a suspect, and he accused the defendants of avoiding getting arrested. Another witness recanted his testimony and said the NYPD told him if he did not accuse them, he would be charged.

“We finally get our exoneration and our innocence back,” Smokes said.

They were convicted in 1987. Warren spent 20 years in prison and was paroled in 2007. Smokes spent 24 years and was paroled in 2011.

“There are some people who really care about what they do. There are other ones who [don’t] and for those who don’t really care about the job or the people that this affecting you get this kind of situation here,” Smokes said.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said the Post-Conviction Justice Unit found fraudulent police practices in this case. The unit reviews convictions of people who claim they are innocent, like Smokes and Warren, who have maintained their innocence for decades.

“In that time, I lost people. I can’t get back. I lost time. I can’t get back, so that makes me frustrated,” Warren said.

NY1 asked Warren and Smokes the first things they’ll do now that their names are cleared.

Warren said he will visit his wife at her grave and Smokes said he will spend time with his family.