Eleven New York inmates have been exonerated so far this year — as many as in any other full year — and Brooklyn leads the way, a new study reveals.
A team of 13 in the office of new District Attorney Kenneth Thompson is in the middle of a review of 100 cases — an effort that has already yielded eight exonerations, with more expected.
“I am determined to get to the bottom of these cases,” said Thompson, who defeated Charles Hynes in last year’s election and took over in January.
Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit is a third of the way through examining 57 homicide prosecutions that are said to be tainted by the questionable work of now-retired Detective Louis Scarcella. That unit has cleared four defendants and upheld 15 verdicts, Thompson said.
The unit was established by Hynes, but Thompson said it included only two lawyers who were given “no real resources.”
The new DA has put in place something “on a different scale than any other conviction integrity unit,” said Samuel Gross, a law professor and editor of the National Registry of Exonerations.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” added Rob Warden, director of the Center on Wrongful Conviction at Northwestern University. “I hope it lives up to the expectations and becomes a model to the nation.”
According to a database compiled by Danielle Hille of the group It Could Happen to You, the last time 11 inmates were cleared in the city was 2002 — the year the Central Park Five had their convictions vacated.
The men cleared in Brooklyn each spent about 20 years in prison.
Manhattan has a smaller review unit, which has been criticized by some defense lawyers as not rigorous enough. DA offices in other boroughs said they don’t plan to launch such outfits.
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