Innocent man released from prison more than 10 years after sentencing

Florida Supreme Court found fault in jury instructions

By Erica Rakow - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Nelsenn Simon, once a convicted murderer, is now a free man who walked out of the Broward County Courthouse Friday.

"It's a dream come true, but I can't even believe it," Nelson Simon said. "I can't really find words to describe that day when the jury found me not guilty and then walking out of the courthouse. I see God just gave me a second chance at my life. I really appreciate it."

Simon told Local 10 News reporter Erica Rakow that he stabbed and killed a man in 2007 at a Hallandale Beach club after he was jumped by three gang members. He said he also used a piece of a broken beer bottle to fight back. 

"Right away, Nelson went to the police and told officers exactly what happened," defense attorney Joseph Kimok said. 

Simon was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2008.

He filed for an appeal, but it was denied. So Simon was sitting behind bars with a life sentence and no appeals left.

"Simon was more likely to get struck by lightning than to get out of prison after a life sentence," Kimok said. 

But a letter then came from the Florida Supreme Court, which found that the instructions given to the jury deciding his fate contained a faulty phrase.

Simon's case was retried last week, and after deliberating for 4 1/2 hours, he was found not guilty.

"It hurts me when they find him guilty the first time, because I know just him and three other guys -- what can he do besides defend himself?" Simon's cousin said. "But the most important thing is he's home. God believe, we believe and that's the reason." 

Simon told Rakow that sitting in prison knowing that he was innocent made him angry.

"It make you angry, make you lose your mind, make you lose your temper," he said. 

Simon won't get back those 10 1/2 years that he was behind bars, and thinking about the time he missed with his aging mom still makes him cry.

But he's back with his family now and looking forward to rebuilding his life.

"It's not often we criminal defense lawyers get clients we really believe in and believe are innocent," Kimok said. "Nelson was one of those for me, and I couldn't be happier for him."

The bad wording in the jury instructions in Simon's case was used in dozens of murder cases in Florida, several of which have been thrown out or given new trials or shortened prison sentences.

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