Brooklyn prosecutor to review convictions from one detective

Reuters News
Posted: May 13, 2013 1:21 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Brooklyn district attorney is taking another look at every murder conviction in cases involving a lead investigator who was linked to "troubling aspects" of one case that was recently overturned, a spokesman said on Monday.

"We are looking at about 50 cases that (retired Detective Louis) Scarcella was the lead detective on," said Jerry Schmetterer, the chief spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

"Our goal right now is to determine if there are any innocent people in jail. If there are, we're going to take what steps we have to take to get them out of jail," Schmetterer said.

The Conviction Integrity Unit will review of all cases in which Scarcella was the lead detective that ended with a conviction won by the Brooklyn district attorney after trial, Schmetterer said.

In March, that unit's investigation led to the overturning of a 1990 conviction against David Ranta, who was falsely convicted of murdering a Brooklyn rabbi and spent nearly 23 years in prison.

Scarcella, 61, was the lead detective.

"There were some troubling aspects of that case that made us decide to look closer," Schmetterer said.

Scarcella, reached by telephone, declined to comment to Reuters.

The New York Times, which first disclosed the wider review of Scarcella's cases, reported on Sunday that it examined a dozen cases involving the detective and found he relied on the same eyewitness, a drug-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions, and that he delivered confessions from suspects who later denied making any admission.

In comments to the Times, Scarcella defended his work and welcomed the review.

"Let them look at my convictions. I will help them if they need me," Scarcella told the Times.

"I never fudged a lineup in my life. I never, ever took a false confession," he said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Nick Zieminski)