Cellphone records won out in court over the testimony of an eyewitness to murder and charges. The New York Times reports that prosecutors dismissed murder charges against 36-year-old Eric Wright in large part because his cellphone indicated he was nowhere near the killing and conceded that there was reasonable doubt he was not guilty.
When Tyrell Pope was killed in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn in July 2006, it didn't take long for cops to zero in on Eric Wright as a suspect. The two had a history of mutual animosity (Wright was suspected in an earlier shooting that had paralyzed Pope), and Wright even admitted that he had a problem with the victim but insists that he moved to New Jersey to avoid trouble.
Wright's defense attorney was skeptical when his client insisted he couldn't have been at the scene of the killing last year because he was talking with a friend on his phone. Although Wright had already been fingered as the killer by an eyewitness at the scene, attorney George Farkas pulled Wright's phone records, and they indeed showed that someone was using the man's phone in New Jersey at the exact reported time of the murder. Faced with the cellphone record evidence and contradictory eyewitness accounts of the crime, counsel for the DA's office agreed to drop the charges against Wright.
On an interesting note, the prosecution previously argued in Wright's case that phone records traced only the whereabouts of the phone itself and not its owner, so Wright's phone alibi should be discounted as possibly manufactured. That's the first we've heard of prosecutors discounting phone data as being inconclusive, given how much they seem to rely on it these days. Cellphone tracking records were a key component in the indictment of Darryl Littlejohn, which placed him in the vicinity of Imette St. Guillen's murder. Phone use was also a key component in the prosecution of Paul Cortez, who was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend earlier this year.