Nicholas Garaufis, Federal Judge, Calls Brooklyn Murder Prosecution "Rotten," Orders Release of Man Falsely Imprisoned for 22 Years
"The case of William Lopez began twenty-three years ago. It was rotten from day one."
So begins U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis' epic 95-page dissection of the justice system's failures in wrongly arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning Lopez for the 1989 murder of a drug dealer in a crack house in Brooklyn. In his order, made public yesterday, Garaufis granted Lopez's writ of habeas corpus and ordered him released within 60 days. He has served 22 years in prison, and is now 50 years old.
As recounted by the judge, the case against Lopez, which took place early in the tenure of long serving Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, was weak in the first place, relying on the word of one witness, a drug addicted prostitute who claimed after trial that she was coerced by police and prosecutors to testify against Lopez. "The prosecution's evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after trial," Garaufis wrote.
Hynes' office, however, is going to appeal the ruling, and request that Lopez remain in prison.More »