CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The trouble for 31-year-old Joaquin Hicks began when Cleveland police arrested him for taking part in the 2009 robbery and murder of 28-year-old Jeremy Pechanec, and wounding of his friend and co-worker, 26-year-old Jory Aebly, at Perk Plaza in downtown Cleveland.
In an interview with Fox 8 News on Sunday, Hicks said, "It was like, 'Alright, that's sad, but you all are like making another victim, like, I didn't do nothing, I don't know these people.' "
In 2010, Cuyahoga County prosecutors convinced a jury that Hicks, who had gotten out of prison on a robbery conviction just days before the Perk Plaza shootings, was part of a group of a men who targeted the victims inside Scorchers Bar, and then robbed them when Jeremy Pechanec decided to go to the park to buy marijuana. Hicks, who maintains he has never been to Scorchers, and had never heard of Perk Plaza, said, "You want to yell out, like, 'Hey, it ain't me,' like you want to go crazy and get mad, but you want to conduct yourself in the proper way."
During the trial, defense attorneys were confident they would prevail, but then during jury deliberations, courtroom security discovered a razor blade taped under the defense table. Authorities implied Hicks was planning to escape, and the defense believes the jury found about it, and that it played a role in the guilty verdict. Hicks denies any knowledge of how the razor ended up in the courtroom. "I definitely believe it was planted, can't tell you who exactly did it, but I've got suspicions," he said.
Hicks told Fox 8 News that after he went to prison, the reality set in, and he contemplated suicide. "I thought I was broke. I was ready for it to be over with, like, everything," he said. "I didn't think I was going to make it."
But in July, an appeals court overturned his conviction, finding the judge should not have allowed prosecutors to imply that defense attorneys were coaching their witnesses to lie on behalf of Hicks. "It felt like a dream. It felt like, 'Man, this can't be real,' " he said.
Earlier this month, Hicks struck a deal with prosecutors and avoided a second trial by pleading guilty to a charge of attempted robbery and was set free. When asked if the guilty plea meant that he took part in the crime, Hicks said, "In no way … I wanted to go home. I wanted to get out of jail."
Hicks said he is now trying to rebuild his life and is starting a new job later this week.