Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has gotten much praise and credit for his office’s focus on reviewing questionable convictions of the past. Over the seven months he has been in office, the New York Times, USA Today, and other news outlets have run stories about how Brooklyn has taken the lead on the issue of wrongful convictions. He bulked up the Conviction Integrity Unit from two lawyers to ten, and he tabbed more than $1 million-a-year to their investigations.
At the center of the office’s review, of course, are the Louis Scarcella cases. A majority of the cases under review in Brooklyn involved Scarcella, and the proportion has just grown.
Before this week, public knowledge was that Thompson’s office was reviewing 57 Scarcella cases. On Wednesday, the Daily News reported that the office has added 14 more Scarcella cases to the review.
The Scarcella review began back in May 2013, when Charles Hynes was Brooklyn’s D.A. Hynes had dismissed the conviction of David Ranta, who had served 23 years for a murder he did not commit. The Conviction Integrity Unit, which Hynes created in 2011, had discovered that alleged misconduct by Scarcella played a role in the wrongful conviction. The Times had also reported that several inmates were accusing Scarcella of fabricating confessions and coaching witnesses.
So Hynes announced that his office would look into every conviction involving Scarcella. The number was 56, at first, and it ticked up to 57 soon after, and that’s where it had settled.
The D.A.’s office, however, recently searched for cases using misspellings of Scarcella’s name. Investigators also looked closer at cases in which the lead detective listed was Steve Chmil, Scarcella’s longtime partner.
In addition to the 71 Scarcella-related cases, Thompson’s office is reviewing more than 30 convictions that Scarcella had nothing to do with. So far, he has dismissed seven convictions, four involving Scarcella and three not involving him. He has also confirmed more than a dozen of the Scarcella convictions.