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.
Anthony Yarbough, Annie’s son and Chavonn’s sister, was convicted of the triple-murder, along with Sharrif Wilson. Yarbough received a prison sentence of 75 years-to-life. Wilson, who took prosecutors’ deal to testify against Yarbough, got a nine years-to-life sentence, though he would be denied parole in each of his first six tries.
Twenty-one years later, after DNA evidence cast doubt on the convictions and Wilson recanted his statements, the men are free. On Thursday, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office dropped the case.
The convictions had seemed shaky since 1999, when police discovered DNA on the body of a murder victim, Migdalia Ruiz, that matched DNA found beneath Annie Yarbough’s fingernails. From there, it was possible to deduce that her true murderer had killed again, while Anthony Yarbough and Wilson sat in prison.
Six years later, Wilson recanted his testimony implicating Yarbough. Wilson was 15 at the time of the arrest and prosecutors offered him a lighter sentence if he turned on his co-defendant.
There were no witnesses to the crime and prosecutors did not offer a reasonable explanation for why Yarbough would murder his mother and sister. Yarbough, who 18 and had no criminal record at the time of the arrest, claimed that police coerced him into signing a false confession, which he withdrew soon after.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has said that he has prioritized examining possible wrongful convictions. Many of those cases took place under his predecessor Charles Hynes, who has since faced accusations of turning a blind eye to shady policing practices that helped prosecutors secure convictions–from rough interrogations to fake witnesses. Yarbough and Wilson are the latest in a string of wrongfully convicted inmates to walk free. One of them, Jabar Collins, who served 15 years for a murder he has since been acquitted of, is suing Hynes for $150 million in damages.
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