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

Protesters took to the step of city hall in April to urge Thompson to speed up his review.
Protesters took to the step of city hall in April to urge Thompson to speed up his review.
Albert Samaha

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

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.


Darryl Austin and Alvena Jennette

The crime: On September 10, 1985, two men fatally shot Ronnie Durant and robbed him in Crown Heights.

The evidence: The first person interviewed, the victim's nephew, suspected Austin and Jennette, but the case went cold for two years. Then Scarcella took over as lead detective and located an eye witness. Teresa Gomez claimed to have seen Austin and Jennette commit the murder.

The reasons for reversal: Brooklyn D.A. investigators, years later, discovered a notebook containing a police interview with two witnesses familiar with the crime who said that Austin and Jennette were not the killers. Prosecutors had not turned over the notebook to the defense at trial.

Gomez, the New York Times revealed in 2013, offered damning witness statements for six murder cases that Scarcella worked on.

Thompson dismissed the convictions in May. Austin died in prison in 2000 at the age of 37.

Robert Hill

The crime: On January 10, 1987, Donald Manboardes was shot to death in Crown Heights.

The evidence:Scarcella was the lead detective on the case. Theresa Gomez testified that she saw Hill shoot Manboardes, and then put him in a livery cab, telling the driver to take him to the hospital.

The reasons for reversal: Hill, a drug dealer at the time, had claimed that he found Manboardes, already shot, in the basement of his grandmother's house. Hill and others had used the basement as a place to do drugs, and people often trafficked in and out, he said. Hill's friends who were in the basement with him were not asked to testify. In 2013, they told the New York Times that Hill's story was true.

And, again: Gomez, the New York Times revealed in 2013, offered damning witness statements for six murder cases that Scarcella worked on.

Thompson dismissed the conviction in May.

Roger Logan

The crime: On July 24, 1997, Sherwin Gibbons was shot to death in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The evidence: Scarcella was the lead detective on the case and he located an eye witness. Aisha Jones said that she saw Logan shoot Gibbons when she was in her apartment building'g lobby, and watched the shooting continue when she reached her apartment window. She testified that she had seen Logan around the neighborhood throughout the day, and that seen in him playing dice in the afternoon.

Prosecutors said that somebody had stolen a gold chain from Logan during a dice game, and that Logan shot Gibbons in a case of mistaken identity.

The reasons for reversal: Brooklyn D.A. investigators reviewing the case found that Jones couldn't have seen Logan on the afternoon of the murder because, according to police booking records, she was in police custody from the day before until at least 7 p.m. on the 24th.

Investigators found that it would have been nearly impossible for Jones to see the shooting from both the lobby and her window. The interviewed four witnesses who had been near the crime scene. Three said that Logan was not there. The fourth said that Logan was there but was not the shooter.

Thompson dismissed the conviction in June.

Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha

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