A 48-year-old man serving two consecutive 20-years-to-life sentences in the Auburn Correctional Facility, has been granted a hearing that may significantly impact his future.
Shabaka Shakur was incarcerated for the January 1988 killings of two men with whom he engaged in an argument over car payments. Although Shakur maintained his innocence, he was convicted of murder largely based on the testimony of a Brooklyn North homicide detective.
According to former homicide detective Louis Scarcella, Shakur confessed to the crime, a confession Shakur states was fabricated by Scarcella.
Justice Desmond Green of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, granted the hearing citing an article from the New York Times from May of this year in which Shakur was featured. This article dealt with the former homicide detective’s documented “troubling patterns” in his work, which included the following:
- Telling a witness who to select in a lineup;
- Allowing jailhouse informers to go out and smoke crack, as well as allowing informers to visit their girlfriends;
- Using the same crack-addicted prostitute as a witness in several murder cases; and
- Fabricating confessions.
The new hearing will include not only new witnesses, but will also allow broader claims against former homicide detective Scarcella. This is a move Shakur’s defense attorney called “extraordinary.”
The usual process in these cases, according to Shakur’s defense attorney, is for the “prosecutors to oppose the hearing and for the judges to rubber-stamp that on technical grounds.”
Mr. Scarcella has denied any wrong-doings on his part and stated that anyone accusing him of misconduct “has no honor.”
Scarcella came under review after prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss charges against another man who had spent 23 years in prison for killing a rabbi. Investigators in the case discovered that Scarcella had told a witness to pick out “the man with the big nose” as the suspect in a police lineup. That piece of evidence, along with other discrepancies in the case, made David Ranta a free man after spending almost half of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Shakur, who has filed more than a dozen appeals, stated in a telephone interview that he wants a judge to examine his case, and added, “They should put Scarcella on the stand; he’s going to have to answer a lot of questions.”