Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted May 24, 2013 04:29 pm CDT
The Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney’s office is reviewing 50 homicide cases after discovering that a retired police detective allegedly told witnesses who to pick out in lineups, and repeatedly used the same, crack-addicted witness in six separate cases.
Louis Scarcella, a retired police detective who held the position from 1973 to 1999, rewarded some of his witnesses by letting them out of jail to see prostitutes, the New York Times reports.
Scarcella’s alleged conduct came to light in March, after an internal review by the district attorney’s office found that he directed witnesses in lineups. According to Gothamist.com, the retired detective has said he worked on 175 homicide cases himself, and assisted in another 175 before he retired.
“What’s going to be most time-consuming is getting files out of the municipal archives or our own archives,” said Jerry Schmetterer, a district attorney’s office spokesperson. “We will use detectives to go out on the field and see if the witnesses are still around and see who remembers what. We are conducting this exercise to find out if there are innocent people in jail. If there are, we will move as quickly as possible to get them out.”
Many say this is a difficult–if not impossible–task.
“Do you know how long it takes to read a 1,000 or 2,000-page trial transcript? It takes hundreds of hours to fully investigate an old conviction. It’s a huge undertaking. I would like to know how he is going to do it,” Joel Rudin, a lawyer who handles wrongful conviction cases, told the paper. He notes that Charles J. Hynes, the top DA in Brooklyn, is running for re-election.
“Unless he assigns several people to work full time for a year,” Rudin says of the case reviews, “ it’s not going to happen and it’s an election stunt.”
Hynes announced the inquest following a New York Times piece detailing Scarcella’s alleged misconduct. His work came to the paper’s attention after the court freed David Randa, based on Scarcella’s alleged actions. Randa served 23 years of a murder sentence.
“Are you kidding me? Wow, this is a quite a bit of a shock,” Scarcella told the newspaper when asked about the district attorney reviewing his homicide cases. “Let them look at my convictions. I will help them if they need me. I don’t know what else to say. I expect he will find nothing.”
When asked about specific cases, the New York Times reports, Scarcella said he could not recall many details, and was being singled out unfairly.