Criminal Justice

Former judge seeks to set aside his verdict in murder case, cites his own liberal bias

A former Brooklyn judge testified last week on behalf of a man he convicted in a bench trial in 1999, saying he was swayed by his own liberal bias against a white defendant he saw as a bigot.

Former Judge Frank Barbaro, now 85 years old, said he had questioned his verdict since he retired a few years after the verdict and heard one story after another about wrongful convictions, the New York Times and the New York Post report. He finally contacted the defense lawyer, and then followed through by testifying in a hearing to set aside the verdict.

The defendant, Donald Kagan, had claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot Wavell Wint, who is black, in a scuffle outside a movie theater that began after Wint tried to steal his gold chain. Barbaro says he was a liberal and civil rights activist, and that influenced his verdict.

“I believe now that I was seeing this young white fellow as a bigot, as someone who assassinated an African-American,” Barbaro testified on Wednesday. “I was prejudiced during the trial.”

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