The District Attorney’s Office for Brooklyn has announced that it will revisit cases of people being placed in jail decades ago to determine if they were wrongly convicted, according to the Associated Press.
District Attorney Kenneth Thompson will exam some 90 cases of homicide from the 1980s and the 1990s when the murder rate in New York City was skyrocketing. Approximately 60 of the cases were associated with the same detective.
“No one else is dealing with this type of volume,” said Samuel Gross, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Gross is also the head of the National Registry of Exonerations. “They’re starting out on a long journey, and they don’t know where it will take them.”
Thompson is new to office, taking over in January, but will continue to effort started by his predecessor. The number of prosecutors assigned to the project will increase from three to 10. A Harvard Law School professor will be hired to guide the project. Outside input will be provided by a panel of lawyers appointed to the project. Thompson said that the annual cost of the project will hit $1 million.
“These actions not only foster public trust in the criminal justice system but also begin the process of righting an injustice committed against these defendants,” Thompson said.
Prosecutors have been able to persuade judges to throw out six convictions this year as part of the Brooklyn project. One conviction thrown out involved three half brothers who were found guilty in two fatal shooting cases. Those guilty verdicts relied on eyewitness testimony from a crack addict. It is expected that more dismissals will come with the project.
The majority of the cases being reviewed, 57, focus around retired New York City Police detective Louis Scarcella. Brand new evidence shows that Scarcella coached a witness to pick a suspect out of a lineup in one case. This evidence allowed a man who served 23 years in prison for the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi to be exonerated. Because of this, new allegations of witness manipulation, fabricated confessions and suspect intimidation have come about regarding Scarcella, who denies all of this.
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