Luke Russert hopes his first “Dateline” report, airing Sunday night on NBC, is the first of many.
The correspondent, who is usually running around Capitol Hill, was able to spend several months reporting the story of Jon-Adrian Velazquez, who is serving 25 years-to-life in Sing Sing prison the 1998 murder of a retired NYPD police officer — a murder he says he did not commit.
“Long form requires a completely different set of skills but it’s also rewarding,” Russert tells TVNewser. “So much of DC reporting is rushed. It’s impossible to escape that ‘breaking news’ graphic. With this story, I was able to do some real thorough research. Spend hours examining the case file.”
Russert interviews Velazquez, his mother, his former girlfriend, his attorneys and a witness who picked Velazquez out of a lineup, who now says, “I don’t know if I picked out the right person.” Dateline producer Dan Slepian has spent 10 years working on the story, which started when he got a letter from Velazquez. The inmate had heard about Slepian’s work on another case of wrongful conviction: the story of the Palladium murder, which helped set two men free.
“My goal is for people to pay attention to this case, put aside their judgments and opinions and just listen to the facts. To think if the guy on the other side of those bars was you or someone in your family,” says Slepian. “That’s what this story is about.”
Asked if he hopes Dateline will have him back, Russert says, “I certainly hope so.”
“It’s a luxury I don’t often have in DC reporting and one that I would certainly welcome again.”