By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A group campaigning for prosecutorial integrity has launched a national advertising campaign that attacks the prosecution of innocents — and the office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes is in its crosshairs.
The group, Blind Justice, says it wants to "ensure that elected officials don't turn a blind eye to prosecutors who trample on the rights of the accused to get a conviction."
The television ads, which feature alleged wrongful conviction cases involving local district attorneys, began airing Wednesday in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Houston, Texas.
One of the commercials targets prosecutor Michael Vecchione and his handling of the Jabar Collins case.
In 1994, a Williamsburg man was shot and killed during a robbery. Collins was arrested and charged with the crime. Collins submitted to a lineup and was not identified by the four eyewitnesses to the murder.
Despite having an alibi for the night in question, Collins was convicted of murder and sentenced to 33-1/3 years in prison. Collins was freed in 2010 after Brooklyn Federal Judge Dora Irizarry ruled that he was wrongly convicted.
A spokesperson for the Brooklyn district attorney's office declined a request by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to comment on the new ad campaign.
In a lawsuit, Collins alleges that police officers obtained a coerced and false statement from a false witness and that Vecchione threatened this supposed witness with “prosecution, imprisonment, and bodily harm unless he agreed to stand by his prior statement accusing Collins of the robbery and shooting.”
Collins brought a complaint against Vecchione directly, but a Brooklyn federal judge “reluctantly” ruled that Vecchione — currently the bureau chief of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Rackets Division — was protected by prosecutorial immunity; a law that prevents prosecuting attorneys from civil liability with regard to their actions in initiating and prosecuting a case.
The Manhattan ad target the case of Jon-Adrian Velazquez, whose exoneration has been championed by actor Martin Sheen. Velazquez was convicted of killing a retired police officer in 1998. Prosecutors say an 18-month-long review didn't turn up enough proof to clear Velazquez.