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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.”