Jabbar Collins, the jailhouse lawyer who has been battling for more than a decade to prove his innocence in the 1994 murder of a Brooklyn rabbi, was told this morning that he’s going home.
The move came after officials of Brooklyn D.A. Joe Hynes’s office threw in the towel, saying they would not seek to retry Collins, 37, in the February, 1994, robbery-killing of Abraham Pollack, who was gunned down as he was collecting rent in a Graham Avenue apartment house.
The decision allowed a top member of Hynes’ staff — rackets division chief Michael Vecchione — to duck what was expected to be a rough grilling by Collins’s attorney, Joel Rudin, about his conduct in the case.
“We can no longer prove our case against the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt at a retrial,” said Assistant D.A. Kevin Richardson in a statement read in court.
Other than that, the D.A. offered no apologies, a fact that rankled federal Judge Dora Irizarry who began the hearings after Collins filed a habeas corpus motion claiming that massive amounts of evidence was withheld from him at his original 1995 trial.
Irizarry called the DA’s behavior “shameful” and “disappointing.”
At one point, the judge ridiculed Vecchione’s denial in affidavits to having known that a key witness in the case had briefly changed his story before trial. “It defies credulity to believe he did not know about the recantation,” she said.
“There are two tragedies here,” said the judge. “There is Mr. Pollack and his family; there is Mr. Collins and his family. And perhaps there is a third tragedy: That of a justice system that in this case was not transparent.”
Collins was sentenced to 34 years-to-life after a jury found him guilty of killing Pollack. Key testimony came from three witnesses — all of whom have since changed their stories, saying that they were coerced by police and prosecutors.
Collins’s family, including most of his eight brothers and sisters and his three children, let out whoops and cheers when the hearing was finished. Then they stood and applauded.
“I am just so elated, so happy that this day has finally come,” said Margaret Collins-Bridges, a registered nurse who works nights at Roosevelt-St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Collins is expected to be released in a day or two, after he is returned to Green Haven Prison where the high school dropout has served as a legal mentor to dozens of other inmates.