More than a year after Ronald Taylor was released from prison and temporarily exonerated of the murder for which he served 16 years in prison, the New Haven native is again fighting to prove his innocence while at the same time battling stage four colon cancer.
Taylor maintains his innocence saying, "I want people to know that I am innocent and that I didn't do this crime."
Taylor, along with George Gould, was convicted in 1995 for the murder of New Haven shopkeeper Eugenio Deleon Vega. Both men were sentenced to 80 years in prison.
In 2010, lawyers for Taylor and Gould presented evidence to a judge during a proceeding known as a habeas trial. They argued that Taylor and Gould were improperly convicted, imprisoned illegally and innocent of Vega's killing. After listening to the evidence, which included the state's only eyewitness recanting her story and no physical evidence linking the men to the crime, Judge Stanley T. Fuger Jr. threw out the original conviction, calling it a "manifest injustice." Taylor and Gould were set free.
But in July of this year, the state Supreme Court reversed Fuger's ruling and ordered a new habeas trial. A superior court judge ordered Gould back to prison, but allowed Taylor to remain free to continue receiving treatment for the terminal cancer.
"Unfortunately the cancer has taken a big toll on him. He's lost a lot of weight. He does not have a lot of energy," said Dr. Stacey Stein, Taylor's doctor at Yale's Smilow Cancer Center.
Taylor may not live until the start of his new trial.
"We're doing the best we can to give him the longest life possible, with the best quality of life but unfortunately it is an incurable cancer," Dr. Stein said.
Despite facing an incurable disease, Taylor is as an optimist.
"I'm taking it day by day," Taylor said. "I'm a fighter. And I will fight you tooth and nail."
A new habeas trial has not yet been scheduled.
Taylor now lives with his daughter Amanda, and his wife Mary, a woman who remained supportive during his years of incarceration.
"I went through the 16 years without her other then letters, visits, phone calls. and it was hard," Taylor said.
In addition to the support of his family, Taylor has a team of his attorney Peter Tsimbadaros and their investigator Gerry O'Donnell. Both men have vowed to continue working on Taylor's case.
"It's been difficult to fight the system," Tsimbadaros said. "I still believe in the system and have the faith that the system will do the right thing. It' s frustrating because I know deep in my heart that Ron is innocent."
Taylor and Gould's new trial may begin as early as this fall.
"It's a struggle," Taylor said during a recent chemotherapy session. "But you can't give up. you can't give up."