Chief Investigative Reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Murder Conviction Thrown Out, Man Goes Home

A review of several murder cases investigated by Scarcella began last year after another man convicted of murder was released on new evidence that retired NYPD detective Louis Scarcella had coached a witness

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A judge on Tuesday moved to throw out the decades-old murder convictions of three half brothers who were investigated by a New York City homicide detective whose tactics have come into question. Andrew Siff reports.

    A judge on Tuesday moved to throw out the decades-old murder convictions of three half brothers who were investigated by a New York City homicide detective whose tactics have come into question.

    The three, Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill and Darryl Austin, are the first defendants connected to retired detective Louis Scarcella to have their convictions vacated. Austin died in prison 14 years ago.

    Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson had asked the judge to vacate the convictions.

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    The three brothers were convicted in separate fatal shootings in the 1980s on the word of a "discredited crack head" produced by Scarcella, said the brothers' lawyer, Pierre Sussman.

    Thompson said his office was moving to vacate the convictions in the interest of justice.

    "Based on a comprehensive review of these cases, it is clear that testimony from the same problematic witness undermined the integrity of these convictions, and resulted in an unfair trial for each of these defendants," Thompson said.

    Clutching a cane and wearing a white button-down shirt, Hill showed his relief as Judge Neil Firetog granted the prosecutor's motion to dismiss the conviction. 

    "I'm going home with my family and take a bath," he told NBC 4 New York. 

    A review of several murder cases investigated by Scarcella began last year after another man convicted of murder was released on new evidence that Scarcella had coached a witness. Since then, other convicts have renewed their allegations that Scarcella fabricated confessions and manipulated witnesses.

    The district attorney's decision to seek to void the convictions was first reported by The New York Times.

    "There's an old saying that chickens come home to roost," said Derrick Hamilton, a former inmate. "I think they're coming home to roost." 

    Hamilton served 23 years in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit and, like Hill, wants his conviction erased.

    "In the Brooklyn justice system at that time, you gotta remember there was a lot of drug-infested neighborhoods and Scarcella was looked at as a hero," he said. "Nobody thought to check the cases that he brought in." 

    There was no immediate response to a message left with a lawyer for Scarcella. The former detective has denied any wrongdoing.

    -- Andrew Siff contributed to this report

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