Brooklyn Prosecutor Widening Review of Predecessor’s Convictions

Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer).
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer). Photo: Will Bredderman for Observer

After reviewing 30 cases of potential wrongful imprisonment for murder from the tenure of his controversial predecessor Charles Hynes, Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s office has begun to investigate the former prosecutor’s non-homicide felony convictions, too.

Mr. Thompson, who unseated the six-term Mr. Hynes in 2013, told the conference of the New York State Bar Association that his office has started looking into a “handful” of possible wrongful convictions for other felonies. The district attorney marked his second year in office earlier this month by vacating the 21-year-old murder conviction of Brooklynite Derrick Hamilton, and said his office still has 100 more murder cases to look into.

“I can’t go into anything particular right now, but we have. We’ve started looking at cases that don’t involve murder. Because, you know, we have so many people who reach out to us. Especially after a decision is made,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with the priority cases, the ones that were in prison for murder. But now we have to start looking at these other cases.”

The prosecutor said that the felony convictions appeared to resemble the murder cases. He added, however, that none of the other felonies involved the work of retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella—who has been accused of extracting false testimony in dozens of murder cases in order to deliver convictions, and was tied to several wrongful imprisonments during the final year of Mr. Hynes’ administration.

“There’s so many factors, so many reasons. Witnesses lie, say, you know, ‘defendant X committed a crime.’ Ten years later, they come forward and admit that was not right, that was not true. And then sometimes we have forensic science that shows the crime didn’t happen the way it was presented at trial,” Mr. Thompson said. “We have not discerned a difference with those wrongful conviction cases that involve murder and those that don’t.”

“We’re just starting to look at those that don’t involve murder,” he continued, adding that he does not have the precise number his office is looking into.

Mr. Thompson characterized his 10 prosecutor conviction review unit as “probably the largest in the country.”

A Department of Investigations probe last year claimed Mr. Hynes had illegally used money his office had seized from drug dealers and other suspects to pay political consultants. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has subpoenaed the fallen prosecutor, and he could face a grand larceny charge.

Brooklyn Prosecutor Widening Review of Predecessor’s Convictions