By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson has announced his intention to explore wrongful conviction claims in felony burglary and other non-homicide cases.
Thompson gave the keynote address at the 2015 New York State Bar Association's Annual Meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Focusing on wrongful convictions and the efforts by his administration to "get it right," Thompson highlighted a few of the recent cases of exoneration in Brooklyn including the respective cases of Jonathan Fleming and Derrick Hamilton.
But Thompson has declared that his office will expand its review efforts beyond cases involving a homicidal occurrence — he is likely the first district attorney in the country to do so.
"In Brooklyn so far we've only dealt with claims involving the charge of murder,” Thompson said Wednesday. "But we are now going to embark on reviewing wrongful conviction cases that do not involve the crime of murder."
Cases involving gun possession and burglary will be reviewed by the "same principle" as other wrongful conviction claims, Thompson cautioned. "That is to make sure justice is done."
As of now, all non-homicide cases reviewed will be felony cases, Thompson confirmed, noting that his current Conviction Review Unit (CRU) operates with a slim budget of $1.1 million with a total of 10 attorneys and a handful of D.A. investigators.
The same process of review will apply to all claims including a separate review by a panel of independent attorneys to remove any instance or appearance of bias or conflict that may emerge when a sitting D.A. reviews convictions by prosecutors who may still be employed in his or her administration.
Thompson's extended review of wrongful convictions claims involving gun possession charges comes weeks after a federal lawsuit by Jeffrey Herring was filed in Brooklyn's federal court. Herring accused New York City police detectives of violating his constitutional rights when they planted gun evidence and falsely charged him with criminal possession of a firearm.
As previously reported in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, in June 2013, Herring was charged with criminal possession of a firearm, but his case was dismissed by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo when the police and prosecutors failed to produce the informant that supposedly provided information against Herring.
“Based upon information provided to us by defense counsel,” and on the office’s own investigation, a Brooklyn assistant district attorney said, “We do not believe at this time that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charges against Mr. Herring.”
Thompson stated at the time that his office was also looking into the allegations of an NYPD gun-planting scheme. Herring's attorneys pointed to similar cases of questionable gun evidence involving the detectives associated with Herring's case.
"We have to get it right," Thompson said in closing his keynote speech Wednesday. "And I believe we are in Brooklyn."
-The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s legal editor, Charisma Troiano, was in attendance at the 2015 New York State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting/Presidential Summit