By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn man incarcerated for robbery and felony murder has renewed hope in a chance at parole after a former prosecutor submitted a letter in support of his release.
Samuel Hamilton was convicted for a 1982 robbery that led to the killing of off-duty Housing Authority police officer James Carragher in Flatlands. An informant tipped the police that Hamilton and two co-conspirators had robbed the officer before the fatal shooting occurred. After serving 32 years behind bars, Hamilton has found support in a former Brooklyn prosecutor advocating for his release.
“[M]y admiration for Sam and my belief in the justice of his cause has only grown,” Jonathan Fairbanks wrote in an Aug. 5 letter to the Parole Board.
According the Fairbanks, Hamilton did not deliver the fatal shot. “I know that Sam was not the shooter,” Fairbanks said.
Throughout the investigation, Hamilton refused to name his co-conspirators and was ultimately given a prison sentence of 18 years to life.
Although Hamilton refused to cooperate with police investigators and did not provide damning or incriminating evidence against his co-conspirators, Fairbanks is convinced that Hamilton cooperation would not have been of any benefit.
“Every law enforcement official and judge knew that Sam’s cooperation could not lead to the arrest of his co-conspirators,” noted Fairbanks. In fact, Fairbanks explained, “[T]here was no evidence that we could uncover that would corroborate the testimony of a co-conspirator.”
In other words, even if Hamilton had provided information as to the shooter and other involved in the robbery, there was no independent evidence available at the time to back-up Hamilton’s testimony.
Not all are in favor of Hamilton’s release. The slain officer’s family has been vocal in its preference to have Hamilton remain behind bars.
“Please do not let this COP KILLER be released from prison,” the family wrote in a 2006 victim impact statement. “Please give the James’ family and friends’ peace of mind knowing that James’ killer remains behind bars where he belongs.”
However, Fairbanks reinforced his belief that Hamilton was not the shooter indicating that he and other law enforcement officers knew exactly who shot Carragher, and, according to Fairbanks, the perpetrator was not Hamilton.
“My colleagues in law enforcement and I knew the identity of the two co-conspirators involved in this case.” Unfortunately for Carragher’s family, Fairbanks says he believes these individuals to be dead.
“Before I left the D.A.’s office the individual that I believe shot Officer Carragher was killed on the street. The other individual went to jail for another horrible murder and died several years later after being sentenced,” Fairbanks wrote.
Fairbanks’ letter also turned to the apparently lenient sentence given the accused cop killer. “It was an outstanding sentence in a case involving the death of a police officer,” Fairbanks observed. “Clearly [the judge] believed that Sam was a good human being who might have the strength of character to reform and rehabilitate himself,” noted the former ADA. Fairbanks pushed the Parole Board to “give deference” to the judge’s decision to “imprison Sam for a minimum of 18 years. “I believe that such deference is 12 years overdue.”
In July, the Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed Hamilton’s denial of parole by a vote of 3-2. He will again sit in front of the parole board the week of Aug. 18.