NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A group of New York City men who say they were framed by a crooked police detective decades ago want prosecutors to speed up an ongoing review of the detective’s cases.
The men, who were convicted of murder, made the demand Wednesday at a rally on the steps of City Hall. Some have been paroled after serving lengthy sentences but are still seeking exoneration.
They accuse Louis Scarcella, a once-decorated detective, of coaching witnesses, coercing confessions and trading drugs for testimony.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson‘s office is conducting a review of 50 cases that Scarcella investigated. Thompson said in a statement Wednesday that he understood the need to work quickly but wants to be thorough.
“We’ve been asked to be patient, though,” attorney Lonny Soury said at the rally. “But I say, we have been patient for decades.”
Sundhe Moses, who was paroled in December after serving 18 years in prison, claims Scarcella beat him into confessing to the 1995 stray-bullet killing of 4-year-old Shamone Johnson in Brownsville. He also pointed some of the blame at former District Attorney Charles Hynes.
“We know that the district attorney’s office, Charles Hynes, did a lot of things that weren’t honorable to the people of this city,” Moses said at the rally, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported. “Kenneth Thompson, who is in office today, we ask, we plead, whatever you want. We ask that justice be served.”
Moses is still fighting to have his conviction overturned.
Derrick Hamilton, who spent 21 years behind bars before being paroled, says he has several witnesses who prove his alibi that he was in Connecticut during the 1991 murder of Nathaniel Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The lone witness against him recanted her testimony.
His conviction is among those under review.
“Eyewitness identification has been one of the leading causes of false imprisonment,” Hamilton said. “Yet and still, police officers are able to tell the witness, ‘Pick the guy with the hook nose,’ like they did in David Ranta’s case.”
Ranta had his conviction overturned in March 2013 after being found guilty of the 1990 slaying of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger in Williamsburg. He served 23 years in prison.
Scarcella has denied any wrongdoing. In an interview with CBS 2 last year, he defended his work in the Ranta case.
“I stand by the confession. I stand by the case,” he said.
Hamilton told CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown that while in prison he unearthed the disturbing trend of what he called wrongful convictions that were tied to Scarcella.
Hamilton said, because some murders were committed in his neighborhood, he knew who the true killers were — but other suspects were convicted of the crimes.
“That bothered me,” he said.
The former inmates are demanding the creation of a new conviction-integrity unit, similar to one that is already in place in Dallas. They also want the NYPD to implement double-blind lineups and video record all interrogations.
On Tuesday, Jonathan Fleming, who spent 24 years locked up for murder, was exonerated and freed. He had evidence proving he was at Disney World in Florida during a 1989 fatal shooting. His case, however, was not investigated by Scarcella.
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