Legal resident faces deportation after overturned conviction

In the course of an investigation that spanned several years, FOX 13 uncovered evidence that freed a man from prison named Jean Claude Meus. A judge overturned his conviction 10 years ago. But while Meus is a lawful U.S. resident, the information in his court file caught the attention of federal immigration enforcement and resulted in a deportation case. 

Meus was involved in a fatal crash near Wauchula on May 11, 2001. He was driving a truck loaded with tomatoes which tipped over and crashed onto a van, killing a mother named Nona Moore and her 8-year-old daughter, Lindsey. 

Meus said another driver cut him off, forcing him to swerve before the crash. 

Prosecutors charged Meus with vehicular homicide, claiming he must have dozed off behind the wheel.

A jury convicted him in less than an hour, though several members of the jury later expressed misgivings about the verdict and his sentence of 15 years in prison.  

Meanwhile, the victims’ own family forgave Jean Claude Meus and thought it was an accident, not a crime.  

In 2005, our investigative team dug into the case and discovered evidence that was never presented at trial. For example, after one of our team's reports, FOX 13 connected with volunteer firefighter Juan Otero. He was the first witness on the scene but the jury never heard his story. 

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"Most definitely [Meus] was alert," said Otero. "You're talking about sending a man to prison for so many years for an accident."

Otero also pointed out the sharp curve in the road prior to the accident, noting that Meus could not have negotiated the turn in the road if he had dozed off behind the wheel. The diagram submitted in court suggested Meus did not take the turn, but FOX 13 also found the diagram did not match the measurements troopers took at the scene. 

After a series of investigations, a judge overturned the conviction and freed Jean Claude Meus with time served nine years ago.

"I work, pay my bills, pay my taxes, take care of my family, go to church,” said Meus, who resumed his life as a trucker and a father. “I go out for two weeks. When I come back [my kids] jump all over me ‘Daddy, daddy, you’re home!' Since I’ve been a little boy, I never stole or did stupid things. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t do the crazy things that can put people in trouble.”

However, federal immigration enforcement flagged Meus for deportation for having served time for vehicular homicide on his record, leaving Meus to face potential deportation to his birthplace in Haiti -- even though he has been a lawful permanent U.S. resident for nearly 40 years.  

In 2019, a judge determined Meus qualified for cancellation of removal, meaning he can stay pending a final review next year, at which time a final determination can be made on cancellation of removal. 

Despite his difficult experiences in court, Jean Claude Meus said America still has the best justice system on earth. 

“That's what this country is: The United States. There is justice. You’ve just got to keep persisting but you will find justice in this country,” he said