As Wrongful Convictions Mount, the NYPD Announces Reviews of Murder Arrests
Protesters rallied against wrongful convictions on the city hall steps last month.
In 1997, Roger Logan was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison. Prosecutors said that he had killed Sherwin Gibbons on the night of July 24 after somebody stole Logan's gold chain during a dice game earlier that day.
The strongest evidence against him was an eye witness who, at the trial, identified him as the killer. Aisha Jones testified that she had seen Logan, then 36, around the neighborhood throughout the day. She had seen in him playing dice in the afternoon, and she had seen him fire ten shots in the vestibule of a Bedford-Stuyvesant apartment building.
Seventeen years later, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office has released Logan, and a judge has vacated the conviction because, as it turns out, Jones couldn't have possibly seen Logan doing all of those things, the D.A.'s office discovered -- she had been in police custody almost all day.
See also: The Tragedy of Louis Scarcella
Louis Scarcella was one of the detectives working this case. Lawyers and many he helped put away have accused Scarcella of often using suspect methods, including fabricating confessions and coaching witnesses, that led to a slew of convictions.
The public learned of these alleged wrongful convictions after the 2013 exoneration of David Ranta, who was convicted in 1991 of murdering a rabbi. The case was overturned in part because a key witness claimed that Scarcella had pushed him to make a false identification. Former Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes announced last year that his office would review every conviction involving Scarcella, more than 50 cases in all.
In May, Ken Thompson, who succeeded Hynes in January, dismissed the convictions of three men tied to Scarcella's investigations--Darryl Austin, Alvena Jennette, and Robert Hill. Logan, who was released on Tuesday, is the fourth.
In each of these cases, a crucial eye witness emerged to identify the suspect. For Austin, Jennette, and Hill, this witness was Theresa Gomez, who was an eye witness in six of Scarcella's homicide cases.
In Logan's case, Jones testified to seeing Logan throughout the day after the judge had ruled her photo line-up identification inadmissible. The participants of the line-up looked so different from each other, with a wide range of heights and races, that the judge determined Logan may had unfairly stood out. Jones's eye witness identification was allowed at trial only after she could prove she would have been able to recognize him.
Next: NYPD's plan to review arrests.
Scarcella has become the poster boy for this recent wave of wrongful convictions in New York City, and Brooklyn in particular. But the institutional flaws that enabled the misconduct ran far deeper than him. Thompson's Conviction Integrity Unit is also reviewing more than 30 cases that Scarcella was not involved in. The office has exonerated three people in cases Scarcella did not investigate.
With that as a backdrop, the NYPD announced earlier this week that it will begin more closely reviewing its murder arrests, both new and old.
"We see cases from the past, things that have happened in the '80s and '90s," Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce told the Daily News, which first reported the review. "We have to ensure we're not doing that now and put safeguards in."
The News reported that the review team meets once a week, paying particular attention to how a suspect was identified and whether physical evidence matches up with confessions and witness statements.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha
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