Only a few months ago the head of the Brooklyn DA's Conviction Integrity Unit said they had "ruled out" the possibility that more innocent people had been thrown in jail because of the sloppy, possibly criminal police work of former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella. Now the Daily News confirms that the DA's office is reviewing 50 murder convictions, and that the Conviction Integrity Unit is asking former federal judges and state supreme court jurists to help.
After David Ranta was released from prison in March after serving 23 years for a murder he didn't commit (the confession Scarcella coaxed out of the witness proved false) a deluge of evidence surfaced to cast doubt on Scarcella's convictions. Scarcella used the same crack addicted prostitute as a witness in six different murder cases. He never took notes during interrogations, and boasted on Dr. Phil that he did anything to get a conviction—which apparently included letting witnesses smoke crack or see prostitutes while they were in custody.
Last week the Times found that several of the confessions Scarcella elicited have the same language. At least four confessions credited to Scarcella have the suspect beginning with the words, "You got it right" or "I was there."
Attorney Ron Kuby, who is representing six people who were convicted by Scarcella's police work, told the News that reviewing murder cases is a formidable task. “The work of excavating 50 old murder cases is daunting. It’s unimaginably difficult. I’ve been digging into six of them and I’m utterly overwhelmed.”
Why would DA Hynes plunge into this messy work after initially dismissing its merit? Well, there is a Democratic primary on September 10. Last week when it was reported that one of Hynes' rivals, former Manhattan prosecutor Abe George, had not voted in any city election, George responded, “This is a story being driven by the Hynes campaign to create a smoke screen to hide Hynes's abysmal record on wrongful convictions, protecting pedophiles, protecting Vito Lopez, and not curbing the abuses of stop and frisk.”
Hynes's other opponent, Kenneth Thompson, has called on Governor Cuomo to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the convictions.
Scarcella, who used New York Post to proclaim his innocence, has said, "I sleep well at night." But the News reports that the DA's investigation would "drag down" cops, prosecutors, and possibly even judges who allowed Scarcella's work to hold up in court.
That means current Manhattan criminal court judge and former Brooklyn prosecutor Neil Ross, who is probably should have stuck to the topic of cigars on a cigar message board several years ago.
Ross recounts the story of his first real cigar and how it was "given to me by a legendary detective of the Brooklyn North Homicide Squad named Louis Scarcella." Ross helped secure that conviction thanks to the aforementioned crack-addicted prostitute. “It was near folly to even think that anyone would believe [her] about anything," Ross typed. "Damn, do lawyers ever run on, or what?"