The More Guilty Child-Stabbing Suspect Seems, the More Careful We Should Be
From what it looks like, the arrest of Daniel St. Hubert stemmed from solid police work. There was an apparent DNA match from the knife found at the scene of the murder of six-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto. He was the prime suspect from the start, and detectives spotted him on the street, two blocks from his mother's home.
"It's great, I'm glad there's an arrest," said the victim's godfather, according to the New York Times. "There's a relief that he's off the streets and that no other family will have to suffer what me and mine have suffered."
"I want to see this bastard's face," said the grandmother of the seven-year-old girl who survived the stabbing "He's not a crazy person; he's just an animal who does not belong on the face of the earth. I don't think he's going to be a happy camper in incarceration this time around; people in prison have children, too."
"He's off the streets, and he's not coming back," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
This was a very high-profile case, a front-pager, and pretty much everybody in the city was excited to hear that police nabbed the prime suspect.
High-profile, front-page arrests, however, are the most dangerous sort. As we've seen from the wave of exonerations in recent years, not every arrest leads to justice and not every conviction is righteous.
There were the Central Park five. There was David Ranta. And, some evidence suggests, perhaps Thomas Malik and Sundhe Moses, too. There were all those Scarcella cases, which the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office is currently reviewing.
If those cases, and scores of other wrongful convictions from the '80s and '90s, offered any lessons, it's that the pressure to satisfy the public's thirst for justice can tempt police officers and prosecutors to cut corners.
Daniel St. Hubert seems guilty. His rap sheet shows that he was convicted of attempted murder for strangling his mother with an electrical chord. He was convicted of assaulting a correction officer and of assaulting a fellow inmate. He served five years in prison.
"Before Arrest, a Long String of Violent Acts," reads the Times headline.
Police suspect that St. Hubert may have fatally stabbed an 18-year-old woman in East New York days before the two children were stabbed in an elevator, and that he may have stabbed a man in a Chelsea subway station days after.
He certainly fits the profile. St. Hubert suffered from "severe mental health problems," as de Blasio noted.
He was arrested on Wednesday while locals gathered at a community meeting at East New York's police precinct. News of the arrest streamed over a radio, and the people at the meeting cheered.
The more obviously guilty a suspect appears, the more the public must keep its guard up.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.