Here’s another reason why we love the Brooklyn criminal court system: a guy’s on trial last month for felony armed robbery. One day, a paralegal for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office wanders into the courtroom to drop off some papers.
The robbery defendant, Corey Hinds, she notes, looks familiar. She knows him from the neighborhood. And, the jury foreman looks familiar, too. He’s also from the neighborhood.
And, she concludes, you know what? The foreman and the defendant have to know each other.
Turns out that the jury foreman, Rayshawn Davis, also failed to disclose during jury selection that he had been previously convicted of a felony. That’s illegal…
The disclosures led to a mistrial, and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is now investigating Davis for lying under oath, the Voice has learned.
The robbery itself dates all the way back to Sept. 29, 2005. Two men approached the victim, Daryl Khan, outside 22 Williams Place in Brooklyn brandishing a gun, the criminal complaint says.
One of the robbers, allegedly Hinds, grabbed the victim’s cellphone, and then placed the gun to his cheek and demanded his wallet. Hinds also allegedly grabbed some cash from the victim’s pockets and his car keys.
“This shit’s for real, this shit’s for real,” Hinds allegedly told Khan.
Eventually, detectives were able to find the alleged suspects, in part because the victim obtained a list of calls made from his stolen cell phone after the robbery, sources said. The case likely would not have gotten all that much attention from police, except for the fact that Khan was a reporter working for Newsday at the time.
Hinds and the alleged accomplice, the “lookout” Messiah Oakley, were indicted in May, 2006. The case dragged its way through the system until this year, when Oakley and Hinds were tried separately. Oakley was found not guilty in his trial.
The Hinds trial, meanwhile, began in August, his defense being that the victim was mistaken in his identification. He was facing 5 to 25 years in prison.
During jury selection, while under oath, Davis claimed that he had no prior felony convictions. In fact, he did. He was convicted of felony gun possession a few years ago, and served a year in jail. But that fact wasn’t picked up until the DA’s paralegal made the alleged connection between Davis and Hinds.
The paralegal was in the courtroom one day toward the end of August. The judge in the case was handling miscellaneous motions at the time. While the paralegal was there, the jury sent out a note asking for a read back of the testimony. The jury and the defendant were brought
into the room. When she saw the defendant and the jury foreman, she immediately recognized them and concluded they had to know each other.
The paralegal eventually brought it to the attention of the case prosecutor. Details of Davis’ prior criminal conviction emerged. As deliberations continued, the prosecutor raised the issue late on Aug. 31 with the judge and requested a mistrial.
The judge suggested that an alternate be selected to replace Davis, and that deliberations proceed, but Hinds’ defense lawyer, Peter Bark, declined.
The judge in the case declared the mistrial on Sept. 1 based on the fact that Davis had lied during jury selection. No formal finding was made that Davis and Hinds knew each other.
But Davis did not show up for court that day before the mistrial was declared.
Bark says his client denied to him that he knew Davis. And he says he’s suspicious about the timing of prosecutor Joseph Tillman’s request for a mistrial. Bark says he believes the jury was going to acquit Hinds.
“This comes up the week before the trial ended,” Bark says. “She doesn’t bother telling anyone, and then it’s raised just before the jury was going to reach a verdict. The DA disappears, comes back 15 minutes later, and makes the allegation. I find it hard to believe that this person never told anyone else in the office about this situation.”
Asked about that claim, a spokesman for the Brooklyn DA’s office declined
to comment based on the pending investigation.
We asked Bark why he refused to allow the 11 remaining jurors to decide the case if he thought they were going to acquit Hinds. “I asked my client and why take a chance,” he says. “It’s a dangerous thing to consent to that. I’m figuring the next trial won’t be any worse and probably better.”
So, why wasn’t Davis’ prior conviction spotted before trial testimony began? New York State courts spokesman David Bookstaver says there are too many prospective jurors to do criminal checks on all of them.
Each juror is asked under oath about any criminal past. It’s up to the prosecution and the defense to investigate the background of the jurors.
Bookstaver noted that Davis received a jury notice under an alias, so even if that name had been run, it may not have turned anything up.
“It’s a weird case, an aberration, an anomaly,” he says.
Whatever happens to Davis, Hinds is scheduled to stand trial on the same charges once again later this month. The next court date is Sept. 29.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 18, 2009