During his 2009 trial, Fowler testified on his own behalf that he wasn’t at the Flatbush shooting. Fowler’s defense counsel, however, did not call the four other known witnesses who would have confirmed he was not at the busy intersection. His conviction, then, rested on the testimony of a purported eyewitness who recanted post-trial.
This isn’t (always) a cop problem. This is a lawyer problem. It’s about dishonest prosecutors. It’s about grossly underfunded, overworked public defenders. It’s not confined to New York City, of course, and is even happening in death cases. It’s got to stop. Brooklyn’s CRU is a good beginning. But we need to change the mindset and the culture so that what’s happened on such a shockingly large scale basis in Brooklyn is simply unacceptable.
Wrongful conviction #11 – he has a name and it’s Derrick Hamilton – who was cleared by the CRU last year has just sued the City of New York. Hamilton was convicted in July 1992 for the murder of Nathaniel Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The conviction was based on the testimony of the victim’s girlfriend – the only eyewitness. Shortly after a jury convicted Hamilton, she recanted her “untruthful” testimony, which was one of the reasons why the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit threw out Hamilton’s conviction last January.
Hamilton’s suit claims there were witnesses who could have attested to him being in New Haven, Connecticut, not in Bed-Stuy on January 4, 1991. However, the suit also claims that ex-Detective Louis Scarcella and other investigators conspired to “intimidate” Hamilton’s alibi witnesses, “threatening…that they would die in jail if they testified.”
Those witnesses were threatened by another “disgraced” cop, Billy White of the New Haven Police Department, who worked with Scarcella to convict Hamilton, the suit charges. Hamilton spent twenty-one years in jail
Hamilton was the 11th person to have his conviction vacated by the CRU since District Attorney Ken Thompson took office.
Hamilton always maintained his innocence in the 1992 murder. He spent 21 years in prison. Hamilton always maintained his innocence in the 1992 murder. He spent 21 years in prison.
Four other men – David Ranta, Robert Hill, Darryl Austin (deceased) and Alveana Jennette – who were wrongfully imprisoned because of Scarcella, settled claims with the city’s controller’s office totaling $23.4 million. That’s a lot of cash. At least some of it could be applied, for instance, to hiring additional PDs were it not being paid out because of wrongful prosecutions.