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Subject: Vincent Landano, Cleared in 1976 Murder of Newark Officer

Dies at 63
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Date Posted: November 13, 2002 8:39:23 EDT

incent James Landano, who fought a successful 22-year battle to clear himself in the 1976 murder of a Newark policeman, died on Monday at a hospital in Toms River, N.J. He was 63 and lived in Manville, N.J.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Camille.

Mr. Landano had served 13 years of a life term in state prison when he was released in 1989 by a federal judge, who ruled that the prosecution had systematically withheld evidence.

In 1994, a state appeals court voided the conviction and returned the case to Hudson County, which proceeded with a retrial. Mr. Landano was acquitted of the murder in the second trial, in 1998.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Landano, known as Jimmy, was a 37-year-old Staten Island resident, an unemployed construction worker and a former heroin addict who had served prison time for theft.

He was accused of the shooting death of Officer John Snow during the robbery of a check-cashing office in Kearny, N.J., on Aug. 13, 1976. Officer Snow had been delivering $46,000 in cash to the Hi-Way Check Cashing Service.

Mr. Landano, who at trial was implicated by co-defendants, was sentenced to life plus 15 years, and in the following decade he became a jailhouse lawyer, according to Neil Mullin, his longtime lawyer. When he was not pressing for an appeal, he was a leader in various social-awareness programs at East Jersey State Prison in Rahway, including those intended to steer young people away from crime.

In 1989, after long-stored and undisclosed documents turned up showing witness accounts that could have cleared Mr. Landano, a federal judge overturned the conviction and released him. Eventually, a new trial was ordered in state court in Hudson County.

In a second trial, Mr. Landano was acquitted of the murder charge amid suggestions that members of a motorcycle gang who were originally charged in the case had falsely implicated him to shield one of their leaders, a boyhood friend of Mr. Landano's.

Through it all, Mr. Landano became a symbol for frustrated police groups who sought justice for Officer Snow from a man they viewed as unrepentant and for civil rights lawyers who portrayed him as a victim of prosecutorial misconduct.

Besides his wife, Mr. Landano is survived by a brother, Andre DelCroix, and two sisters, Lucille Forissi and Roseanne Barone, all of Staten Island. Also surviving are two daughters from a previous marriage.

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