A Brooklyn man who spent 26 years in prison on murder charges walked free on Thursday, just eighteen months ahead of his expected release, after an investigation found that his conviction was based on fabricated testimony.
Carlos Weeks, 46, was incarcerated in 1993 for his alleged role in the fatal shooting of Frank Davis outside the Tompkins Houses in Bed-Stuy.
The case was brought to trial, and he was convicted of second-degree murder and assault based on the eyewitness accounts of two sisters, who claimed they saw Weeks firing at the victim. Weeks, who was 20 years old at the time, maintained his innocence throughout, insisting that he was not at the scene.
"Some lineups were conducted and he was identified by witnesses to the shooting," Inspector Charles Kammerdener told the Times at the time.
But a follow-up investigation conducted by the Davis Polk law firm and the Legal Aid Society beginning in 2015 found numerous errors in the case. Attorneys say they uncovered new alibi evidence, including a key witness who was never called to trial, proving that Weeks was not present for the killing.
After the findings were brought to Brooklyn's Conviction Review Unit, one of the sisters, Lorraine Taylor, admitted to prosecutors that she had not seen the faces of the suspects. She'd initially gone to the precinct to help her nephew, who was arrested on unrelated charges and fingered Weeks for the killing. "There was so much pressure," Taylor told investigators, noting that prosecutors at the time promised to help her relocate in exchange for her testimony.
The other witness, Carmella Taylor, said she had no recollection of the events.
“An extensive investigation into this old case revealed that the two witnesses who identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter were not credible. Accordingly, we cannot stand by this conviction and will release the defendant," Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.
The sentence is the 27th to be vacated by the Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit, which was started in 2014 by late District Attorney Ken Thompson. Weeks is the fifth person to be released after serving more than 25 years in prison. Approximately eighty cases are pending review.
Currently, Queens is the only borough in the city that does not have a conviction review team. Criminal justice advocates have also called for a statewide body to investigate wrongful convictions.
“Carlos’s case underscores the need for district attorneys’ offices to have robust wrongful conviction review units that can review cases expeditiously to correct injustices," said Elizabeth Felber, who supervises the Legal Aid Society's Wrongful Conviction Unit.
"This is a happy day for Carlos and his family—a long time in coming—but we have other clients with matters pending before the CRU, and we urge that office to investigate those matters promptly so that other wrongfully convicted individuals can experience the vindication that Carlos has experienced today.”