DA decides not to move forward with case
Prakash Churaman walked out of Queens Criminal Court on the afternoon of Monday, June 6 for what he says will be the last time in his life.
Churaman, now 22, had all charges against him dropped by the Queens District Attorney’s office. As a 15-year-old kid of Guyanese descent from Queens, Churaman says he was forced to confess to a crime he had nothing to do with.
Initially convicted of the home invasion and murder of Taquane Clark, Churaman has maintained his innocence, even despite being sentenced to nine years to life, before having the Appellate Division court overturn the conviction in June 2020.
When the conviction was overturned, he was offered and later refused a plea deal to plead guilty to assault and be released in a matter of weeks. Instead, Churaman opted to fight for his freedom.
“It took a long time, it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” Churaman said outside Queens Criminal Court.
Churaman was incarcerated for six years, one month, and 10 days before being bailed out and serving an additional 16 months in home confinement.
“I just want to utilize this time to heal,” Churaman said. “All of this is internally and externally traumatizing. I want to spend time with my son, my family. I just want to live my life.”
In a letter signed by a group of elected officials and advocates of Churaman, the decision to drop all charges levied against him was met with overdue relief. The letter was signed by Councilwoman Shahana Hanif, Councilman Shekar Krishnan, Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, former Council candidate Felicia Singh, and Democratic District Leader Mufazzal Hossain.
“Prakash is a Guyanase immigrant who spent over half a decade of his life behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of murder,” the letter reads. “This decision speaks to the power of his community and the movement he built.”
Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar said the case is a victory for Queens and for the entire Indo-Caribbean community.
In a statement, she said she would be conducting an inquiry into what led to Churaman being coerced into a false statement. Rajkumar is the Chair of the State Assembly Subcommittee on Diversity in Law.
“As a civil rights attorney, I have seen firsthand how the justice system can fail defendants and deny them their right to due process,” Rajkumar said in a statement. “I have spent my career fighting to change this, bringing the voices of the vulnerable and disenfranchised into courts of law. Mr. Churaman’s victory was a victory for that cause. Thank you also to District Attorney Melinda Katz for doing the right thing and dropping the charges, showing that the hand of justice is fair in Queens.”
The District Attorney’s office did not immediately respond for comment.