A 41-year-old Brooklyn man is now free after spending more than two decades in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit.
This particular case is merely the most recent overturned conviction in a long line of cases involving retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. According to a recent report by the Daily News, the Brooklyn district attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) has already overturned nine cases linked to Scarcella, with 30 more cases yet to review.
Recent overturned conviction
The wrongful-conviction victim in this case had originally been convicted in the mid-90s for allegedly killing his childhood friend. However, many troubling issues involving the initial investigation and prosecution were highlighted during the dismissal of the case, including:
- The shooter was described as 5-foot 2, but the individual convicted (victim) is over 6 feet tall
- The only witness to the crime viewed the incident from a sixth-floor apartment
- The lead detectives pressured the sole witness to say the victim was the shooter, according to court documents
- The sole witness tried to escape the detectives’ coercion by moving to Georgia, but she was held in custody as a material witness until she testified, according to court documents
- The sole witness later recanted her testimony
How big of an issue is police misconduct?
While many people may believe the recently overturned conviction is an anomaly, the truth is that there are many people in prison right now whose original convictions involved police misconduct.
In fact, according to a report issued earlier this year by The National Registry of Exonerations, an alarming 84 exonerations in 2017 involved official/police misconduct of some type, including instances of falsifying lab reports, police threatening witnesses and officials concealing important evidence. To put this number in perspective, this report only examined 139 wrongful convictions from that year, meaning more than 60 percent involved official misconduct.
This is simply unacceptable.