Jury Awards Upstate Man $41 Million for 16-Year Wrongful Imprisonment

Categories: Justice

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In 1989, then-16-year-old Jeffrey Deskovic confessed to the murder and rape of a 15-year-old classmate in Putnam County, New York. He was convicted and sentenced to 15-years-to-life in prison. He claimed that police had coerced the confession and that he was wrongly convicted. In 2006, DNA testing showed that Deskovic actually was innocent. DNA found on the victim matched that of another man in prison, Steven Cunningham, who had been convicted for murder.

Cunningham was exonerated and released. He sued Putnam County. On Thursday a federal jury ruled in Deskovic's favor and awarded him $41.65 million in damages.

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There Have Now Been 10 Overturned Murder Convictions in Brooklyn This Year

Categories: Justice

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Wikimedia Commons
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter wrote a letter asking Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson to review McCallum's case.
On Wednesday, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson asked a judge to overturn the 1986 murder convictions of David McCallum and Willie Stuckey. The judge overturned the convictions. That makes 10 murder convictions reversed in Brooklyn this year.

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Court Vacates Burglary Conviction Because Defendant Did Not Have a Lawyer at Trial

Categories: Justice

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Nathaniel Issac, then 52, was arrested and charged with breaking into a Queens warehouse in May 2008. Prosecutors presented a witness who claimed to have seen Issac on the roof of the building next to the warehouse the same week of the break-in. Police found Issac in possession of items from the warehouse.

In a September 2010 bench trial, a Queens Supreme Court judge found Issac guilty of burglary.

Four years later, an appeals court overturned the conviction.


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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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