Derrick Deacon, Acquitted After 24 Years of Prison, Was Convicted After Investigators Coerced Key Witness

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State Supreme Court in Brooklyn
On Monday, a Brooklyn Supreme Court jury needed just nine minutes to decide that Derrick Deacon was innocent of the crime that kept him behind bars for 24 years.

Chalk it up as another wrongful conviction coming out of the Kings County District Attorney's office. And as testimony from Deacon's appeal effort revealed, this one was dirty.

A witness named Colleen Campbell had known that Deacon wasn't the man who murdered 16-year-old Anthony Wynn in a Flatbush apartment building in April 1989. But when she testified at his trial back then, she said she wasn't sure.

She lied, she testified in Deacon's retrial, because investigators threatened to have her children taken away if she didn't.

Campbell came face to face with the shooter moments after the murder. She'd been in the hallway to pick up some baby food from her brother's apartment when the gunman ran past.

She told police the man was definitely not Deacon. She knew Deacon's face well. He was homeless and often walked through her building asking for work.

But soon after, investigators -- from the police department and/or the D.A.'s office -- came to her home and ordered that she provide "vague" testimony at the trial, she recalled two decades later. They mentioned finding bleach at her apartment and calling child services.

When Campbell took the stand, she said that she couldn't tell whether or not the man who ran past her was Deacon. Another witness identified Deacon as the shooter. Deacon was convicted based on the account of that single eye witness.

He may not have gotten his chance at freedom if not for a gang leader named Emile Dixon. Dixon, leader of the "Patio Crew" who was convicted of murder and drug dealing in 2003, had known Deacon from around the neighborhood.

While looking through his own case file, Dixon stumbled on a 2001 interview between FBI agents and Trevor Brown, a Patio Crew member cooperating in the federal investigation against the gang.

Brown told the agents that another gang member named Pablo told him about shooting someone "in front of 105 Lincoln Road," which is where Wynn was killed. "Someone named 'FIRE' who looked just like PABLO got arrested for the shooting," the FBI report stated. Deacon's nickname was "Fire."

Through a relative, Dixon sent the files to Deacon, jump starting his appeal process. In 2012, an appeals court granted him a new hearing.

"After the murder, people who later became known as the Patio Crew and other people who lived in the area openly acknowledged Fire's mistaken arrest for the Wynn murder," Brown wrote in an affidavit for Deacon's case. "However, nobody dared inform the authorities for fear that Pablo's implication would cause Pablo and people associated with him to take revenge."

According to Rebecca Freedman, a lawyer for the Exoneration Initiative who helped represent Deacon in his appeal, Detective Louis Scarcella was not involved in this case. The Brooklyn D.A.'s office is currently reviewing 50 cases that Scarcella handled because of recent evidence showing that he often coerced false confessions out of suspects. Hynes lost re-election this month in part because his reputation has been tarnished by a string of potential wrongful convictions that came to light in recent years. Jabar Collins, who served 15 years for a murder he has since been acquitted of, is suing Hynes for $150 million in damages.

Freedman notes that prosecutors worked hard to keep from having Deacon's case added to the list.

"They fought us tooth and nail every step of the way," she says.

After Deacon's legal team sought a new trial based on the FBI interview, the prosecutors countered that the evidence at the original trial was clear and strong. They pointed out that the jury reached a verdict after only three hours of deliberation.

Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha





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6 comments
Freedom
Freedom

Another man is in prison wrongfully for 25 Years, Man Says Partner of Disgraced NYPD Detective Set Him Up... 

Valance Cole has at least two key facts on his side in his long struggle to overturn a manslaughter conviction for a 1985 Brooklyn killing that has kept him in prison for more than a quarter century. The first is that the homicide detective who built the case against him is closely connected to an evidence-faking scandal that has prosecutors — and now a New York State Supreme Court judge — reexamining dozens of old convictions. The second is that another man has been trying for years to confess to the killing in question. 

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/11/prison-for-25-years-man-says-nypd-set-him-up.html

lmkb9443
lmkb9443

Continued from below:  The lack of evidence against Brad should have provided reasonable doubt, but the jury hears DNA and they hear little else.  They hear a liar like Josh, who has killed a man, and believe him.  Amazing.  We are now starting to contact the Innocence Project, so this article was of particular interest to me.  Bradley Blymyer is an innocent man in prison for what could be 70 years or more, for a murder he didn't commit.  He is a kind and gentle young man who wrote regarding "the Verdict" and said, "I looked around for God, and didn't see Him anywhere, and I wondered why".  Surely there is a reason for this! 

lmkb9443
lmkb9443

I have a son who was convicted of murder in much the same way; overzealous prosecutor who was in power too long and knew all the tricks in the book.  A small town judge and DA who were former law partners, the lead investigator was our son's girlfriend's cousin, so he coerced a statement out of her which she felt was innocent enough and couldn't harm Brad, but it was brought up in his appeal.  We paid a small town lawyer $50,000 to save our son, because we know he is innocent.  The lawyer could have been great, but he thought it would be an easy case and he had a new girlfriend he was busy with.  He spend little time on the trial but lied his way out of the MRA we filed against him.  Bradley Blymyer is an innocent young man who has been in jail / prison since February 28, 2007 for a murder he did not commit.  The murder was committed by his friend who said Brad was there in order to get a 17 year plea deal for himself. The Prosecutor knew Brad wasn't there.  A partial DNA profile was found at the scene because Josh took rubber gloves Brad used at his employment from Brad's car when Brad drove Josh around.  There is no time stamp on DNA, however.  A DNA expert could have explained that, but our lawyer didn't bother to get one. 

gold
gold

And so goes the jury system....

paulgiblin96
paulgiblin96

@lmkb9443

I have been reading your post and just wanted to pass on to you the name of The Exoneration Initiative,  http://exonerationinitiative.org who appear to work along the same lines as The Innocence Project.

 It never fails to amaze me how often we hear stories in the media of the "Prosecution" being able to keep information and witnesses out of a trial, that back up the accused's alibi, or support those "beyond reasonable doubt" defences. It happens here in Australia as well. 

I have never been able to understand how they can accept the word of a witness who is earning a reduced sentence for their testimony, while being involved and convicted in the same case. Common Sense tells you that person will probably lie to protect their own skin, which raises reasonable doubt in itself. I hope and pray that you can win justice, freedom, and compensation for Bradley. Please know that your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Sincerely, Paul & Anna.

markymark2112
markymark2112

@lmkb9443 The justice system in the U.S. is a joke, believe it or not it's much worse in Canada( although the sentences in Canada for lesser crimes usually aren't as long but they have gotten much longer recently) The Police in many of our cities and towns are worse than the criminals they are charged with catching.No matter how terrible of an offense a fellow officer commits the other cops will do everything possible to protect them including lying, withholding evidence and outright destroying of evidence. |The police and the prosecutors can put anyone in jail for no reason at all and if it's found out later they railroaded an innocent person they don't even lose their jobs or get reprimanded let alone fired and thrown in jail. Until we are willing to stand up and fight these thugs they will continue to become worse and take away more and more of our rights everyday. We are truly living undre the rule of the Forth Reich.

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