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Brooklyn DA candidate Ama Dwimoh calls for systemic changes to DA’s office

June 22, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn DA candidate Ama Dwimoh (second from left) stands in front of Shabaka Shakur (left) and Jabbar Collins (right), a pair of Brooklynites who spent a combined total of 43 years in prison for crimes that they did not commit, as she calls for systemic changes to the DA’s Office. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

Ama Dwimoh, a candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney, called for systemic changes to the office that she hopes to one day run while being flanked by a pair of wrongfully convicted Brooklynites in front of the state Supreme Court building on Thursday.

Dwimoh charged that while the office has done a lot to free those who were wrongfully convicted, it hasn’t done enough to prevent future wrongful convictions from happening.

 

“It’s been several years since the first of nearly two dozen people wrongfully prosecuted by the Brooklyn DA’s Office were exonerated,” Dwimoh said. She added, “Very little has changed in the way the DA’s Office operates to ensure that these tragic miscarriages of justice will not happen again.”

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Dwimoh titled her plan “Justice Matters” and it is an attempt to prevent these types of bad convictions from happening in the future. She hopes that such a move would restore people’s confidence in the DA’s Office.

“Strict protocols, mandated training and systems of accountability must be in place immediately to protect Brooklynites from wrongful prosecution and imprisonment and to restore the trust the DA’s Office has lost from the people it serves,” she said.

The plans calls for an appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases of potential misconduct of a prosecutor that lead to an overturned conviction. She also seeks to create an independent commission to review cases of egregious misconduct by prosecutors and a wants a checklist for each case to track evidence. 

On top of those changes, Dwimoh laid out a plan to educate assistant district attorneys to avoid prosecutorial error and would put “integrity officers” in the office to review and audit current cases. She is also in favor of expanding the conviction review unit and creating a standard application for prisoners who believe they have evidence of their innocence.


“The purpose of this agenda is to hold the system accountable,” Dwimoh said.

A pair of wrongfully convicted Brooklynites, Jabbar Collins and Shabaka Shakur, were on hand to drive home her point. Shakur pointed out that wrongful convictions aren’t just bad for those on the receiving end of lengthy prison sentences, but because the actual criminal is never convicted that all of society is affected. Collins pointed out that the practices that landed him behind bars are still in place today. 

“Many times those wrongful convictions originated from prosecutorial misconduct that was in the office that was never addressed,” Collins said. “In my case, despite several federal judge’s finding that there was egregious misconduct that took place in my case, not a single prosecutor was held accountable for misconduct and not one systematic change took place in that office.” 

Dwimoh would not go as far as the call out any prosecutors by name for specific mistakes, but acknowledged that, as DA, she would launch an investigation into whether or not she could bring charges against infamous NYPD officer Louis N. Scarcella, who is at the center of a number of wrongful conviction cases. 

“We have Scarcella saying he did nothing wrong, but then you have the courts saying differently,” Dwimoh said. “I submit that at a base minimum, it’s worthy of an investigation and review. Unless we have an investigation, I won’t know how to move forward in whether or not there is criminal liability.”

She did point to the case of Tara Lenich, the assistant DA who was convicted of forging documents and using illegal wiretaps to spy on a love interest. Dwimoh explained that it’s troubling that Lenich was so easily able to conduct her illegal surveillance and openly speculated that it could be a sign of larger issues within the office.

Acting DA Eric Gonzalez’s office did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication. 


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