Letters from Sing Sing

Letters from Sing Sing

In December of 2002, NBC News producer Dan Slepian got a letter from a New York state prison. It was from a man serving 25 years to life for murder. And it ended with a desperate plea: look into my case. Jon-Adrian “JJ” Velazquez had been convicted of killing a retired New York City police officer, but he insisted he didn’t do it. Dan was skeptical. Prosecutors said five eyewitnesses had sworn JJ was the killer. Could five people be wrong? So Dan began to dig. What he discovered went far beyond just JJ’s case. And 20 years later, it’s still unfolding. Letters from Sing Sing tells the story of a man convicted of murder, a journalist, and the letter that changed both of their lives. New episodes drop every Monday through March 27, 2023.

Episodes

February 10, 2023 1 min

In December of 2002, NBC News producer Dan Slepian got a letter from a New York state prison. It was detailed and meticulous, almost like it had been written by a lawyer. But it wasn’t. It was from a man serving 25 years to life for murder. And it ended with a desperate plea: look into my case.

Jon-Adrian “JJ” Velazquez had been convicted of killing a retired New York City police officer, but he insisted he didn’t do it. Dan was ske...

Mark as Played

In December of 2002, NBC News Producer Dan Slepian got a letter from a New York State maximum security prison. It was detailed and meticulous, almost like it had been written by a lawyer. It was from a man serving 25 years to life for murder. And it ended with a desperate plea: look into my case.

In 1998, Jon-Adrian “JJ” Velazquez was arrested for killing a retired New York City police officer. A year later, he was convicted of seco...

Mark as Played
February 20, 2023 42 mins

JJ Velazquez claimed he had an alibi: a 74-minute phone call on a landline with his mother, Maria Velazquez, that overlapped with the time of the crime. So Dan visits Maria. She lives in a town in New York on the Hudson River directly across from Sing Sing, the maximum security prison where her son is incarcerated. Maria talks to Dan about JJ’s childhood. And she recounts in detail her memory of January 27th, 1998, the day of Al Wa...

Mark as Played
February 27, 2023 39 mins

It turns out, back in 1998, just days after the crime, the NYPD had a main suspect for the murder of Al Ward: a man named Mustafa. Dan tries to find out more about Mustafa and understand why this lead was dropped after JJ’s name entered the case. He also learns that JJ’s legal team had a court-assigned private investigator. Dan tracks down that private investigator, and discovers that he hardly looked into JJ’s case. He didn’t know...

Mark as Played
March 6, 2023 36 mins

Dan tracks down Juror Number Six: Ramon Aviles. Ramon remembers the moment when the 84-year-old eyewitness, Dorothy Canady, pointed him out as the shooter. He says he was shocked and that people were laughing. The juror breaks down what he remembers from the deliberation room and ultimately admits he might have made a mistake in voting to convict JJ.

Dan starts to wonder if other jurors from JJ’s trial would feel the same way. He me...

Mark as Played
March 13, 2023 45 mins

It’s been eight months since Dan’s investigation into JJ’s case aired on Dateline. When he visits JJ at Sing Sing, JJ is frustrated—he thought he’d be out by now. But the Manhattan DA is looking into his case. In 2010, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance created a conviction integrity unit focused on investigating claims of innocence. Bob Gottlieb and Celia Gordon, JJ’s lawyers, are confident that this unit will determine that he was wrongful...

Mark as Played
March 20, 2023 39 mins

By 2015, JJ had been locked up for nearly 18 years. His mom, Maria, drives to Sing Sing to visit him on his 40th birthday and reflects on how much it hurts to watch him age in prison. 

In the last decade, JJ has built a rich life in prison in order to survive. He talks about his involvement in the prison’s programs, like organizing fundraisers and leading workshops. He was even elected by the prison’s population to speak for them wh...

Mark as Played
March 27, 2023 34 mins

In 2017, JJ finally gets some good news. After years of denials and setbacks, he would appear before a judge for the first time since his conviction. A new judge would determine whether JJ’s rights were violated when the prosecutor at his trial withheld police reports related to his case – reports that, 10 months earlier, had arrived in Dan’s mailbox.

But the judge ultimately denies JJ’s request for a new trial. Dan and JJ are devas...

Mark as Played
March 27, 2023 20 mins

In August of 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo grants JJ executive clemency. Three weeks later, JJ steps out of Sing Sing a free man. But he wasn’t exonerated. In the eyes of the law, he was still a convicted felon. Within the first 24 hours of his release, JJ needs to check in with the parole office. He has a curfew. He has to get permission to travel out of state. As he likes to say, he’s freer, but not free.

Soon after his release, JJ ...

Mark as Played

Popular Podcasts

    Current and classic episodes, featuring compelling true-crime mysteries, powerful documentaries and in-depth investigations.

    Crime Junkie

    If you can never get enough true crime... Congratulations, you’ve found your people.

    Around the NFL

    NFL.com's "Around the NFL" crew (Gregg Rosenthal, Dan Hanzus and Marc Sessler) break down the latest football news, with a dash of mirth.

    Stuff You Should Know

    If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

    The Bobby Bones Show

    Listen to 'The Bobby Bones Show' by downloading the daily full replay.

Advertise With Us

For You

    Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

    Connect

    © 2023 iHeartMedia, Inc.