A Cambria Heights man who was held on Rikers Island for 19

months on murder charges has been freed after the Bronx district attorney said

his office had no evidence proving the man's guilt.

Lloyd Brown, 20, was released on March 29 and charges were officially

dismissed on Wednesday after prosecutors for District Attorney Robert Johnson

cited "the lack of physical evidence" and expressed concerns about the

credibility of an eyewitness they said was coerced by police into identifying

Brown.

"The people cannot meet their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,"

senior Assistant District Attorney Gregg Turkin told State Supreme Court

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Justice Denis Boyle, who dismissed charges of second-degree murder, burglary

and possession of a weapon.

Brown's attorney, Deron Castro, said the charges were dropped after Brown's

father produced a credit-card receipt showing that Brown and his family were

shopping at the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream at the time of the Bronx

slaying.

But Steven Reed, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the

receipt did not "conclusively establish" that Brown was with his family at the

mall. "There is no evidence exonerating him," Reed said. "Nothing has turned up

that he is innocent and didn't do it."

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Brown, who was 18 at the time, was arrested and charged with the July 3,

1998, murder of Dale Smith, a Jamaican party promoter who was shot six times by

four gunmen who charged into his home at 2015 Pitman Ave. in the Wakefield

section of the Bronx.

A friend of Smith's, Elroy Evans, told police that the gunmen had ordered

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him and Smith to lie down on the floor and that they complied. But he said

Smith was shot after he began struggling with one of the men.

After later being identified as a witness to the shooting, Evans was

instructed by police investigators "to stop playing around and to identify

someone or he was going to be charged himself," the district attorney's office

said in a memo recommending the dismissal of the charges. Evans then picked

Brown, who had been arrested but not charged in a Queens robbery, out of a

photo display and later in a police lineup.

"At this point, we are grateful that we didn't have to go through a whole

trial process," Castro said. "But we have a kid who spent 19 months in jail,

and nothing has changed since the beginning of the case. They had all this

information at the very beginning. It is frustrating that we had to spend all

this time waiting."