Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Feb 16, 2011 06:31 pm CST
Convicted in 1995 of murdering a rabbi, Jabbar Collins was freed from a New York prison last year after a key witness told a federal court that a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office had threatened him with jail if he didn’t testify against Collins.
Shortly before the accused prosecutor was scheduled to testify last year, the government agreed to drop its opposition to Collins’ appeal of his conviction.
And now that prosecutor, Michael Vecchione, has been named, along with six supervisory attorneys at the DA’s office, the city of New York and police detectives, in a $150 million federal civil rights lawsuit filed by attorney Joel Rudin on behalf of Collins, according to the New York Daily News and the New York Law Journal.
He contends in the complaint that Vecchione “engaged in a series of fraudulent, deceptive and literally criminal acts, all caused by and consistent with his office’s unlawful policies, in order to convict Jabbar Collins and make the conviction last,” the Daily News reports. The supervisors allegedly helped cover up the claimed wrongdoing by Vecchione, who is now in charge of the rackets prosecution bureau at the DA’s office.
The suit also alleges that prosecutors “had wrongfully withheld a key witness’ recantation, had knowingly coerced and relied on false testimony and argument at trial, had knowingly suppressed exculpatory and impeachment evidence and had acted affirmatively to cover up such misconduct for 15 years,” the legal publication reports.
The DA’s office didn’t comment.
Although prosecutors are absolutely immune from misconduct liability for their official work, the suit seeks to hold Vecchione liable on the theory that he was a fact witness, the New York Law Journal explains.
Similarly, it argues that the city whose liability is limited, was deliberately indifferent and had a policy of violating civil rights.
As detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, Collins won his freedom last year based largely on his own research, from prison, concerning his conviction: