By Charisma L. Miller, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice has ordered all documents relating to a probe into questionable convictions achieved by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office be submitted to his chambers for review.
Louis Holmes, also known as Shabaka Shakur, was convicted in 1988 for the murder of two men over car payments. Evidence showed that Shakur gave incriminating statements to the lead detective on the case, Louis Scarcella. Shakur, currently serving two consecutive 20-years-to-life prison terms, has maintained that he did not make any such statements.
Under normal circumstances, pleas of innocence by prison inmates fall on deaf ears, especially after the case against them has been fully adjudicated. Shakur’s case has received particular attention because of the detective involved in his case: Scarcella.
Scarcella, retired from the police force, has come under significant fire recently after it was discovered that in one case he coached a witness to falsely identify a murder suspect and allowed jailhouse informants trips out of jail to do drugs and visit with girlfriends. The investigation of that case, the case of David Ranta, caused the Brooklyn DA to create the Conviction Integrity Unit to look into case of alleged wrongful convictions.
In addition, DA Charles Hynes ordered a 12-member independent panel to specifically review 40 convictions, involving 50 defendants, from the 1980s and ’90s handled by Scarcella in an attempt to prove — or in some cases, disprove — the integrity of the convictions.
Viewing the investigation into Scarcella as a potential trove of new evidence supporting his claim that false evidence was used to secure his conviction, Shakur was granted a hearing to review potential new evidence in favor of his innocence. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Desmond Green granted Shakur’s request in June, but also extended the scope of the hearing to include the documents uncovered by the 12-member panel.
In October, Green signed a judicial subpoena for the documents, but the Brooklyn DA’s Office quickly filed a motion to quash the request. Finding “the files of the District Attorney’s office…relevant and material to [Shakur’s] case,” Green denied the DA’s motion.
Green appeared to find it odd that the DA's office did not argue that the documents were subject to the protection of privilege, but in anticipation granted room for the documents to be reviewed in camera before they are sent to Shakur's attorney.