Brooklyn man’s murder conviction to be vacated
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson plans to vacate the conviction of a man who spent 20 years in prison after being wrongfully accused of killing a man. According to The Associated Press, Thompson met with 46-year-old Derrick Hamilton on Monday to tell him the news.
Hamilton was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 1991 for the fatal shooting of Nathaniel Cash. The victim’s girlfriend testified against Hamilton, who long argued he was innocent. She later retracted her testimony, and Hamilton was released early in 2011.
Prior to the sentencing, Hamilton requested that the guilty verdict be set aside due to Smith’s recantation. The trial court denied that request. After sentencing, two new alibi witnesses surfaced including Kelly Turner, a New Haven police officer. Turner stated that on the evening of Cash’s murder, she met Hamilton at a party in New Haven and gave Hamilton a ride to his hotel. Turner’s statement made clear that Hamilton was in New Haven, and not Brooklyn, that January evening and could not have been Cash’s murderer.
Hamilton again requested that his conviction be vacated on account of Turner’s statement. The lower court again denied Hamilton’s request on the grounds that Turner’s statement should have been included during trial and therefore was not newly discovered evidence.
Hamilton continued to plead innocence, a legal claim that does not typically allow for a review of an adjudicated conviction. Generally, a finding of new evidence is the only tactic to get your argument approved for a case review or new trial.
Last January, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the Appellate Division, Second Department, viewed these legal procedural barriers complicating claims of actual innocence as violating “elementary fairness.” In allowing Hamilton’s freestanding claims of innocence to prevail, the Brooklyn appellate court, the first court in New York state to do so, gave way for claims of innocence to prevail without the need to show, for example, incompetence of trial counsel or other “collateral issues,” Hamilton’s attorney, Jonathan Edelstein, told the Eagle at the time.
Thompson’s review concluded that the testimony did not match the scientific evidence, and further information evidence revealed that the detective on Cash’s murder was none other than ill-reputed retired Brooklyn detective Louis Scarcella. A number of cases handled by Scarcella are being reviewed after it was discovered that he allegedly used illegal tactics to obtain evidence against innocent men in order to secure conviction.
According to an affidavit filed in the case, Scarcella allegedly strong-armed a witness. Scarcella has denied any wrongdoing.
In an April interview with the Eagle, Hamilton noted the “overwhelming” feeling he is experiencing in being free from prison after decades of pleading actual innocence.
Hamilton joins 10 other men cleared by Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit so far.
-With The Associated Press
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