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Wronged Brooklyn defendant suit for malicious prosecution set for trial

New D.A. ‘Not Enough’ to Remove Concerns from Acts of Past Administration

January 19, 2015 By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn D.A. Kenneth Thompson. Eagle file Youtube screenshot
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In a complex federal civil suit brought by a wrongly convicted Brooklyn defendant against New York City, three NYPD detectives and a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney, allegations of systematic misconduct by a former Brooklyn district attorney’s administration will be front and center in the pending jury trial. 

Brooklyn federal magistrate Judge Jack Weinstein has ordered the case Bailey v. City of New York — which, as the judge describes, contains “charges of serious misconduct by the district attorney of Kings County and three detectives” — be tried by a jury.  

Clarence Bailey was convicted for attempted murder in 2007, but the Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed the 20-year sentence in 2009.

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The panel of Brooklyn judges found the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence. In other words, the Brooklyn appellate court ruled that given the evidence presented by the prosecutors, including the questionable reliability of the sole eyewitness, “an acquittal [of Bailey’s charges] would not have been unreasonable.”

Bailey, in a federal suit, claims that detectives and the assistant district attorney assigned to his case committed grave infractions during the course of the criminal investigation and trial by threatening and coaching witnesses, and withholding critical exculpatory information. In turn, Bailey argues, his constitutional rights to a fair trial were violated and denied — a continued office practice, Bailey contends, was condoned and encouraged by former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Generally, a city or municipality cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional actions of its employees, except where the city is the cause of the constitutional violation either by an express policy or an understood custom that supports such wrongdoing. 

Weinstein, in a ruling made public Thursday, notes that Bailey presented enough material to suggest “a possible pattern and practice by the district attorney of Kings County [under Hynes] in violation of the Constitution.” 

Weinstein relied on the 2013 federal ruling in another Brooklyn wrongful conviction case where the presiding judge noted that “[the] allegations regarding Hynes’ response — or lack thereof — to misconduct . . . and other assistants make plausible [the] theory that Hynes was so deliberately indifferent to the underhanded tactics that his subordinates employed as to effectively encourage them to do so.”  

The defendant in that case, Jabbar Collins, was later awarded $13 million in damages for the 20-plus years he spent behind bars.   

The election of a current Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, is not enough, Weinstein added, to ignore the claims of constitutional violations by the previous administration.

“The fact that a new district attorney has been elected by voters, while possibly of political significance, does not bear on the constitutional issue central to this case,” Weinstein wrote.

“It is the pattern and practice at the time before the election of a new district attorney of Kings County when events relevant to the present cases were taking place that controls.” 

Discovery is still pending in Bailey’s federal case, and Weinstein has refused to grant the city’s motion for summary judgment.


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