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Scarcella's Cases Continue to Undergo Brooklyn DA Review, Another Wrongfully Convicted Man Released

Jun 9, 2014

Another of the approximately 90 cases being reviewed by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office has led to the exoneration of a wrongfully imprisoned man.

District attorney (DA) Kenneth P. Thompson, and his office, are conducting a huge review of cases, many of which are associated with now-disgraced and retired detective Louis Scarcella. In all, the Brooklyn DA is looking at 57 Scarcella cases, according to The New York Times.

Conviction Review units began in in 2007 and may now be found in a number of cities nationwide. The units were created following issues with prosecutions during periods of high crime, noted The New York Times. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a record 87 exonerations were made in 2013. Exonerations for 2014 will likely exceed that number. In Brooklyn, alone, the 90 cases being worked on involve the 1980s and 1990s, a time when Brooklyn was seeing about 600 homicides yearly, said DA Thompson. “Brooklyn is an outlier—the resources and the number of cases they’re taking on have no parallels,” Samuel R. Gross, a University of Michigan professor who runs the exonerations registry, told The New York Times.

This year, to date, the Brooklyn DA’s office has vacated the convictions of six men. The unit consisted of two attorneys when DA Thompson took office; today, 10 assistant DAs and three detective investigators have been assigned. Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a Harvard Law professor, director of the school’s criminal justice institute, and a consultant to the DA unit’s design and operations, told The New York Times that a panel of three independent lawyers reviews the unit’s recommendations before releasing the case to DA Thompson for a final decision. The effort costs $1.1 million annually.

Of the six vacated cases, the unit unearthed what it considered solid evidence revealing that the men should never have been convicted, including DNA evidence, the discredited testimony of a crack addict often used by Scarcella, receipts, and police reports. Most of the other cases are a bit more challenging, but the unit has learned that the police work or the trial was so “badly tangled” that the defendant would not be convicted under today’s justice system, wrote The New York Times. “The duty of a prosecutor is to do justice, not just to get convictions ….” I want to “restore the faith that people have in our criminal justice system,” DA Thompson told The New York Times. The review will assist the unit in identifying common themes in problematic cases to help “avoid wrongful conviction going forward,” he added.

A review of Logan’s case revealed that a rap sheet on Jones indicated that she was in jail for part of the time during which she testified having witnessed Logan involved in damaging activities; that, based on investigators re-enactments, her testimony of events—which she changed—did not work in the way she claimed; and that interviews with at least four other witnesses backed up Logan’s assertion of the events. This was all significant, given that the prosecution’s case heavily relied on Jones’ testimony. Meanwhile, the judge threw out the original police lineup that was comprised of people of varying races and heights, putting Logan in the “spotlight,” The New York Times reported. The judge then held a hearing to determine if Jones had sufficient information to identify Logan. She testified when and where she had seen him and was allowed an in-court identification. During some of these times, she was in jail.

The unit’s report recommended Logan be released and DA Thompson agreed. Logan’s conviction was vacated and Logan was exonerated and released as a free man on Tuesday. “They told me maybe an hour ago that I’d been exonerated,” Logan told The New York Times after the hearing. “I never had this feeling before. I’ve been waiting for this day for 17 and a half years.” Logan’s parents and younger brother died and his then-young daughters had grown and had children of their own during his time in prison.

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