Three half-brothers are to be exonerated this week after an investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office revealed their 1980s murder cases had been mishandled by former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella. One brother has served 21 years in prison; another was paroled in 2007, and the third died behind bars over a decade ago.
Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill and Darryl Austin are all expected to be cleared of homicide charges, with Jennette and Austin having served time for a 1985 murder, and Hill for a 1987 homicide. An investigation into both cases—in addition to more than 50 other convictions handled by Scarcella—revealed that the now-retired detective used the same witness to give key testimony at that trial and a number of others he presided over. That witness, a now-deceased crack addict named Teresa Gomez, testified that she saw Jennette and Austin rob and kill a victim, but prosecutorial evidence has since revealed her testimony to be unreliable.
The 53-year-old Hill, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was set to be up for parole in just a few weeks, having served nearly 26 years in prison. The deceased Austin will be cleared in court today, with his mother standing in for him. "The last time I saw my brother was at sentencing; the next time I seen him was in a casket,” Jennette, whose name will be cleared, told the Times. “This is the thing that really, really troubles me: He could not be here to share this. He was always optimistic that we would get out some day and that a wrong would be righted.”
These three exonerations bring the total number of defendants cleared under Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson to seven, with that number including the case of a man who was wrongly jailed for 24 years. David Ranta, who was cleared of homicide charges by erstwhile DA Charles Hynes after serving 23 years in prison, was another one of Scarcella's cases, and prompted the review.