Charles Hynes’s Reality Show Comes Back to Bite Him in Wrongful Conviction Case


Charles Hynes’ reality show, Brooklyn DA, was conveniently set to air just a few months before the toughest election of his political career. One of his opponents in that race, Abe George, saw that as an unfair advantage and took legal action to keep the show off the air. The suit called the series “nothing more than an in-kind campaign contribution by CBS to Hynes.”

In a review in the New York Times, Neil Genzlinger wrote that the program “projects that Mr. Hynes is running a competent, problem-free ship, something his opponents would dispute.” Sure enough, one defense attorney, Joel Rudin, called it “a self-serving promotion for the DA’s office.”

In the end, Brooklyn DA didn’t seem to matter much in the election. Ken Thompson beat Hynes by 10 percent in the September Democratic primary. But if only the series proved simply useless to Hynes. In a weird reversal, the reality show that didn’t help Hynes keep his seat may now serve as evidence in a wrongful conviction case against his office.

See Also: Our January cover story on Charles Hynes.

On Monday, the Daily News reported that the lawyers representing Shabaka Shakur, who claims he was wrongly convicted for a murder in 1988, will seek to introduce the show’s footage into evidence.

They have focused on the role of Detective Louis Scarcella, whose shady interrogation practices have been tied to dozens of questionable convictions. After the lawyers noted Scarcella’s suspected role in the wrongful conviction of David Ranta, prosecutors “wrote it wasn’t Scarcella who coached a 13-year-old eyewitness to pick Ranta in a lineup,” according to the News.

That’s not what the office said when the reality shows cameras were rolling, though: In a July episode, Assistant District Attorney Taylor Koss said that Scarella was in charge of that lineup.

A judge overturned Ranta’s conviction in March, after he had served 23 years behind bars. After Scarella’s method became public in June, Hynes’s office began reviewing 40 cases the detective worked on, including Shakur’s.

The evidence on the show is part of Shakur’s legal team’s effort to subpoena the D.A.’s office for all the evidence they have of Scarella’s transgressions.