Louis Scarcella Court Appearances Bring New Scrutiny, But Will They Bring Answers?

Alan Zale
Louis Scarcella, right, leading David Ranta out of the 90th Precinct in August 1990. Ranta was convicted in May 1991 despite no physical evidence connecting him to the murder of a Brooklyn rabbi.
On Wednesday, retired Brooklyn Detective Louis Scarcella testified in court. It was an event, highly anticipated and filled with reporters. Last year, then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes announced that his office would review every conviction that involved Scarcella. At a time when wrongful convictions have become the headline story of America's criminal justice system, no other detective has faced such scrutiny. And so in the months since, Scarcella emerged as the face of wrongful convictions. Wednesday was the first time, since Hynes's announcement, that Scarcella has had to answer questions about his police work under oath.

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Richard Rosario Appeal Nears Final Stage

Categories: Justice

Richard Rosario and his daughter, Amanda.
Richard Rosario's legal fight to prove his innocence is winding toward its flash point. The case, which we detailed in a June feature story, now centers on whether the emergence of multiple new alibi witnesses has produced enough evidence of possible innocence for a judge to vacate Rosario's 1998 murder conviction or call for a new trial.

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Court Rules That Two Men Were Wrongly Convicted of 1992 Brooklyn Kidnapping

Categories: Courts, Justice

Wikimedia Commons
In the early hours of January 1, 1992, 16-year-old Jennifer Negron was kidnapped and killed and left outside on an East New York street corner. Detectives found a headband inside a car nearby. A witness said she saw a man forcing Negron into that car and another man in the driver's seat. The witness identified Everton Wagstaffe, then 23, and Reginald Connor, then 24, as those men. They maintained their innocence from the start. A judge dismissed the murder charge against them for lack of evidence, but they were convicted of kidnapping in 1993. They were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

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Mohaman Koti, 87-Year-Old Prison Inmate, Granted Parole After 36 Years

Categories: Justice

Surrealize via Compfight cc
Last week, Mohaman Koti faced the parole board for the eighth time. He had been in prison since 1978. He was serving a 25-years-to-life sentence. By now he was 87 years old, hard of hearing and suffering from several health problems. He gets around on a wheelchair. The parole board had already deemed him a low risk to return to crime, yet Koti had been denied parole on each try, and it seemed that perhaps he would die in prison.

But then last week, on Tuesday, the board granted Koti parole.

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Bronx District Attorney Defends Richard Rosario Conviction

Richard Rosario and his daughter Amanda.
Rosario family.
Richard Rosario was convicted of murder in 1998. Two eye witnesses had identified him as the man who shot 17-year-old George Collazo on June 19, 1996 in the Bronx. Rosario, whose case we detailed in a May feature story, has proclaimed his innocence since the day of his arrest. The most compelling evidence supporting his story: nine witnesses have testified that Rosario was in Deltona, Florida on and around the day of the crime.

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Jabbar Collins, Wrongfully Imprisoned for 16 Years, Gets $10 Mil Settlement from City

Categories: Justice

krystian_o via Compfight cc
Jabbar Collins's lawsuit against the city and state for his 16-year wrongful imprisonment has been a groundbreaking case. The case forced former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to testify under oath about misconduct in his office for the first time. It led to the telling deposition of top prosecutor Michael Vecchione, who answered "I don't recall" more than 300 times during questioning. Former Brooklyn Detective Louis Scarcella was one of the next witnesses on the list. Other high level criminal justice officials may have followed.

The trial was scheduled for October. It was setting up to be a spectacle, with a parade of powerful men taking the stand to answer questions about their roles in the city's wrongful convictions.

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Why the Outrage After Michael Brown's Death Was Different From the Outrage After Eric Garner's Death

Danny Wicentowski, Riverfront Times
Delmar Boulevard runs east-west across St. Louis. Most people who live south of Delmar are white and almost everybody who lives north of Delmar is black. There are no Republicans on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, so the political divide, and the fight for resources, is racial. Votes often split north/south, black/white.

This divide cuts across America, but in St. Louis there are no pretenses.

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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:

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Rikers Island Violence Violates Constitutional Rights of Younger Inmates, says DOJ

Rikers Island is a very violent place. We've known this for a while now and are reminded with each new report about an inmate beaten or dying at the facility. For years, inmates and advocates have called out corrections officials for the ongoing brutality at Rikers. Now the federal government has too. The U.S. Department of Justice declared, in a report released on Monday, that the conditions at Rikers Island are unconstitutional. More »

Brooklyn D.A. Adds 14 Cases to Review of Detective's Work

Albert Samaha
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has gotten much praise and credit for his office's focus on reviewing questionable convictions of the past. Over the seven months he has been in office, the New York Times, USA Today, and other news outlets have run stories about how Brooklyn has taken the lead on the issue of wrongful convictions. He bulked up the Conviction Integrity Unit from two lawyers to ten, and he tabbed more than $1 million-a-year to their investigations.

At the center of the office's review, of course, are the Louis Scarcella cases. A majority of the cases under review in Brooklyn involved Scarcella, and the proportion has just grown.

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