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Another Detective Scarcella-involved conviction thrown out in Brooklyn

Another Detective Scarcella-involved conviction thrown out in Brooklyn

In the context of the justice system, it is now becoming disturbingly common: a conviction vacated and an innocent person freed from prison because of the misdoings of former New York City Detective Louis Scarcella.

The latest is 43-year-old Jabbar Washington. Earlier this week his conviction was vacated after prosecutors determined he was denied a fair trial 20 years ago.

Washington claimed for years that Scarcella coerced him into confessing to a crime he didn’t commit: the murder of Ronald Ellis and the wounding of five other during a 1995 robbery.

As reported in The New York Times, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said Scarcella “gave some misleading testimony” at Washington’s 1997 trial “but broke no laws.” The culprit in this case, they claim, is former assistant prosecutor Kyle Reeves, who did not disclose to the defense that a key witness who originally identified Washington in a police lineup later said she recognized Washington from somewhere else, and that she couldn’t positively say he was involved in the crime.

As The New York Times has recounted, “[S]ince the investigation of [Scarcella’s] decades of work started in 2013, he has watched his stellar reputation be all but destroyed. So far, the district attorney’s office’s Conviction Review Unit has considered more than 40 of Mr. Scarcella’s cases, standing behind 34 of them but asking that convictions be overturned in eight. He has never been interviewed as part of the inquiry.”

Judges have also thrown out three other convictions Scarcella was involved in where the district attorney’s office defended the convictions.

Those released include Derrick Hamilton, convicted in 1991 of killing Nathaniel Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Hamilton claimed from the start that he was in Connecticut when the murder occurred, and said for over two decades that Scarcella had framed him. Hamilton was released in 2015.

Rosean Hargrove was one of the three people released over prosecutor objections. He spent two decades in prison and claimed that Scarcella framed him. A judge ordered him released in 2015 and found that the detective work in the case was so poor that it “undermines our judicial system.”

The city of New York has paid out approximately $40 million to settle lawsuits related to Scarcella’s conduct.

According to the Daily News, Washington is the 23rd person exonerated by the Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit, and his case is among 70 cases the unit has investigated since 2014.

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has been harshly criticized by challengers for the top-prosecutor’s job in Kings County over his office’s reluctance or unwillingness to hold Scarcella accountable in the face of some many cases where his questionable conduct result in wrongful convictions. The Democratic primary for district attorney will be held in September 2017. As the Daily News has explained: “Of 1.4 million active voters in Brooklyn, more than 990,000 are Democrats, which makes winning the primary tantamount to victory.”

Albuquerque prosecutor fired after evidence destroyed in rape case

Downtown Albuquerque
Wikimedia Commons

Albuquerque prosecutor fired after evidence destroyed in rape case

The Office of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez has fired a prosecutor who allowed critical evidence to be destroyed in a rape case.

Torrez fired Jacqueline James because she authorized the destruction of evidence in a rape case — DNA, witness statements, photographs — that her office had decided not to prosecute. Only one month after that happened, the same suspect was accused of raping another woman.

As reported by KRQE News 13 in Albuquerque, in 2013, 17-year-old Amanda Bryand accused Eli Kronenaker of kidnapping her and raping her at gunpoint. According to KRQE, “Amanda handed over her clothing to investigators, text messages, interviewed with detectives, and was assigned a prosecutor under former District Attorney, Kari Brandenburg.”

Later that year, prosecutors chose not to go forward against Kronenaker and the charges were converted to nolle prosequi.

Less than two years later, on June 16, 2015, prosecutor James directed that the evidence be disposed of. One month later, a second woman reported a rape to police and Kronenaker was identified as the perpetrator.

But when Bryand met with prosecutors after Kronenaker was arrested for the second rape, she learned that most of the physical evidence she’d handed over had been destroyed. As was any real chance that the prosecution against Kronenaker for Bryand’s rape would be resurrected. As District Attorney Torrez explained: “[The destruction of evidence] eliminated the ability, for example, for the defense attorney to go and conduct their own independent DNA analysis. Because once that original fabric or garment is destroyed, they lost that ability.”

Around the time of her termination, Jones asserted in a written statementthat she had followed existing policies and procedures and the decision to destroy the evidence was approved by her supervisors.

Torrez has said that his office is reviewing how rape cases are handled to avoid having something like this happen again.

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Dallas prosecutor suspended after seeking “a break” from law enforcement during DWI arrest

Dallas Police Cruise

Dallas prosecutor suspended after seeking “a break” from law enforcement during DWI arrest

The office of Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson has suspended Leah Lucius, an assistant district attorney, after she was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk. Lucius, who has has been working with the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office since July of 2015, apparently made her situation even worse by asking the arresting officer “for a break.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, after she crashed her car into a tree and a fence in the early morning hours of July 8, Lucius said to the arresting officer: “Give me a break. We are Facebook friends.” Lucius also allegedly offered up her concealed handgun license when asked to produce her license and then declined to undergo field sobriety testing.

Johnson has suspended Lucius without pay pending an investigation. It will be up to the district attorney to decide whether Lucius abused her authority to the point where termination is appropriate.

According to NBC News in Dallas, police reported that “Lucius gave a partial, incorrect phone number and said she’d had a couple of glasses of wine over a five-hour period.” Lucius was taken to the hospital, where her blood was drawn to determine her alcohol level. A warrant was later issued for her arrest and Lucius turned herself in Tuesday morning.

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