Charged with serious crimes they did not commit Parker Waichman LLP is investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of people who may have been charged with serious crimes they did not commit and who have served or who are serving prison or jail time.
Three half-brothers, Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill, and Darryl Austin are the first to be exonerated as part of a review of at least 57 trial convictions that involved what has been described as questionable evidence that originated with disgraced former detective, Louis Scarcella.
A 1985 murder went unsolved until two years later, when it was assigned to Scarcella who produced Teresa Gomez as a witness. She said that she saw Jennette and Austin rob and kill a man. Prosecutors later discovered that her testimony contradicted physical evidence.
Austin will be cleared posthumously; his mother will stand for him in Brooklyn court. Hill, 53, who has been in state prison since 1988, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Disgraced Former Detective, Louis Scarcella, Tied to Scores of Wrongful Convictions
A Brooklyn district attorney (DA) office review involves nearly 60 convictions that were made through Scarcella’s work. Last year, another case that was investigated by Scarcella involved a wrongful conviction of a man who remained in prison for 23 years for a crime he did not commit. The man, David Ranta, was awarded $6.4 million from the City of New York after filing a $150 million claim that the New York City’s Comptroller’s Office settled prior to the filing of a civil rights lawsuit, CBS News reported. Ranta was convicted of second-degree murder in 1991 and was released and cleared following the DA office’s review of the case. Concerns were raised and reviewers concluded that that the involved detectives mishandled parts of the investigation. The dubious and flawed work was credited to the lead detective, Scarcella, according to a prior The New York Times report. Then-DA Hynes’ office defended the conviction, even fighting appeals and rejecting evidence that implicated someone else.
Scarcella has been accused of creating confessions, coercing witnesses, and not submitting exculpatory evidence, according to a The New York Times investigation.
Scarcella Used Fake Witness
One of the most horrific practices in Scarcella’s investigative work was his use of a crack addict named Teresa Gomez who served as a witness in at least six murder cases, The New York Times probe uncovered. The witness is now dead, but was known to have confused key details and to contradict the testimony of other witnesses. One case was dismissed because she never appeared for her cross examination. In another case, a man took a guilty plea, but later wrote to the judge stating that Gomez was someone who had “railroaded” him and with whom he was acquainted as a crack dealer who sold drugs to one of his relatives. The witness was known for using identical verbiage including, “You got it right. I was there” and that some confessions did not match the evidence. She testified against all three of the half-brothers.
Conviction Review Unit Expanded, Reviewing Nearly 100 Cases
DA Kenneth P. Thompson’s decision to vacate the convictions preceded any defense motions on the men’s behalf. Should the exoneration request be granted, only Hill will receive his freedom. Jennette, 50, was released on parole in 2007 and Austin died in prison when he was 37 years old, 14 years ago.
Former inmate Sundhe Moses, another man investigated by Scarcella, hired lawyers who located a star witness who acknowledged that detectives coached him to lie. Moses was finally released by the Parole Board late last year after he served 6 years for the murder of a 4-year-old girl.
DA Thompson took office in January after unseating Charles J. Hynes, who served as DA for 24 years and who also fought the three men’s appeals. Once these exonerations are complete, the new DA will have cleared six men.
As part of his campaign, Thompson promised to clean up the DA’s office; he inherited the 57 Scarcella cases and about another two dozen that may also involve wrongful convictions, but which do not appear to be connected to Scarcella. Since, Thompson’s unit has added 10 older cases, which brings the total to 90. Thompson assigned 10 attorneys, a number of investigators, and support staff to the Conviction Review Unit, bringing on Harvard Law School Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, as the unit’s chief, according to The New York Times.
Scarcella continues to deny any wrongdoing.
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