Forced Confessions and Suppressed Evidence: This Year's Overturned Convictions in Brooklyn

Albert Samaha
Protesters took to the step of city hall in April to urge Thompson to speed up his review.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has dismissed seven convictions this year. Three of them involved former Detective Louis Scarcella, the subject of this week's feature story, The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella. Thompson's office is reviewing all 71 convictions tied to Scarcella, a review that began under the previous D.A., Charles Hynes. The three other dismissed convictions, however, were among the 30 or so non-Scarcella cases also under review.

Here are the facts on the seven dismissed convictions:

See also this week's feature story: The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella

Thumbnail image for scarcella-cover.jpg
Photo illustation by Tom Carlson

Anthony Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson

The crime: On June 18, 1992, 39-year-old Annie Yarbough and 12-year-olds Chavonn Barnes and Latasha Knox were fatally stabbed in Yarbough's Coney Island apartment.

The evidence: Yarbough's 18-year-old son Anthony discovered the bodies and called the police. He went with them to the precinct to give a statement. His friend, 15-year-old Sharif Wilson, accompanied him. Police separated them and questioned them. Wilson gave a statement saying that that he was present during the murder, and that Anthony Yarbough was the killer. Anthony Yarbough signed a confession.

Prosecutors said that Yarbough killed his mother and sister because his mother did not approve of his friendship with Wilson. Wilson, who took prosecutors' deal to testify against Yarbough, got a nine years-to-life sentence. Yarbough received a prison sentence of 75 years-to-life.

Scarcella was not involved.

The reasons for reversal:At his trial, Wilson initially claimed police had coerced his confession. He was convicted and sentenced to 27-years-to-life. Prosecutors offered him the nine-year deal if he testified against Yarbough.

in 1999, police discovered DNA on the body of a murder victim, Migdalia Ruiz, that matched DNA found beneath Annie Yarbough's fingernails.

In 2005, Wilson recanted his accusation and wrote a letter to Yarbough's family stating that he had lied at Yarbough's trial.

In February, the Brooklyn District Attorney's office dismissed the case in February.

Jonathan Fleming

The crime: On August 15, 1989, 22-year-old Darryl Rush was shot to death at the Williamsburg Houses.

The evidence: Jacqueline Belardo identified Fleming as the shooter. Prosecutors said Rush and Feming was a rival drug dealers.

Scarcella was not involved.

The reasons for reversal: Belardo had testified in exchange for leniency on a grand larceny charge she faced. After Fleming was found guilty and before he was sentenced, Belardo recanted her testimony.

In 2013, Investigators with the Brooklyn D.A.'s office discovered in the case file a hotel receipt for a phone bill showing that Fleming was in Florida on the day of the murder. Fleming had maintained form the start that he and his family were at Disney World. Brooklyn prosecutor James Leeper had not turned it over to the defense team during the trial. the evidence of Fleming's innocence had sat untouched in his case file for more than 20 years.

Thompson dismissed the conviction in April.

Next: the Scarcella cases.

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