With longtime Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes on his way out of office, media outlets are looking back through more of the alleged missteps from his 20-odd year tenure, particularly those involving former detective Louis Scarcella's 46 murder cases currently under review. Today the NY Times has a long, fascinating story about fishy convictions in a 1991 Crown Heights murder case—one that investigators had previously considered open-and-shut.
In August 1991, just a few days before the infamous Crown Heights riots unfolded, two off-duty correction officers were shot near the neighborhood's Kingsborough Houses, one of whom succumbed to his injuries a few days later. Two teenagers were tried and convicted for his murder in a trial lasting only a day and a half, with little fanfare or protest.
But in keeping with many of the cases presided over by Scarcella, who arrested the teens, holes in the case have since been discovered. Forensic evidence mysteriously disappeared, fingerprints didn't match up and certain details conflicted with the only eyewitness account, that of the surviving correction officer. One of the teenagers, John Dwayne Bunn, served 16 or so years in prison before being released, and the other, Rosean Hargrave, is still behind bars. Even Edward Boyer, the case's now-retired prosecutor, voiced a moment of doubt when the Times reporter presented him with the case's alleged missteps. "I had a homicide trial that lasted a day and a half?” he told the Times. “If there is something amiss here, it should be set right, and that’s it." (After further review, Boyer maintained he had prosecuted correctly).
Scarcella, who was one of two arresting detectives in this case, has been accused of recycling witnesses in cases, inventing confessions and coercing suspects. He was also the detective who helped wrongfully convict David Ranta, a Brooklyn man who was imprisoned for 23 years for a murder he did not commit.
Hynes, who has been accused of bolstering Scarcella's fishy arrests, appointed a 12-person panel to review nearly 50 of the detective's murder convictions back in July; now that he's on his way out of office, though, some of the panel's members are reportedly hoping the task will be reassigned by incoming prosecutor Ken Thompson. "Why would Thompson keep us? When I saw the election results, it struck me that we’re not an official body — there’s no reason to keep us,” one panel member told the Post. Thompson assumes office next month.