In light of the recent exoneration of a convicted man who spent over two decades in prison due to the flawed investigation of a former Brooklyn detective, Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes has ordered a review of forty cases investigated by Louis Scarcella.
According to the New York Times, it appears that prosecutors in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office both ignored warning signs in Scarcella’s investigations and made missteps of their own.
Mr. Scarcella’s investigations included the following flaws:
- Contradictory and questionable witnesses
- Disputed confessions
- Prosecutors willing to accept spurious evidence and questionable testimony
- No videos documenting interrogations and disputed confessions
- Soliciting false testimony
- Informing witnesses who to choose in police line ups
- Suspects signing blank pieces of paper, only to have a supposed confession written on it later
- Informers released from jail for unauthorized outings
Hynes’ office has not released a full list of those cases under review and has declined to discuss any of the cases, as well. He has stated that “so far no glaring problems have been discovered in the review,” and also said that “Scarcella’s sloppy work was not brought to the office’s attention until a year ago.” Even in the case that led to the review and eventually the exoneration of a convicted man, Hynes said he found no reason to blame the prosecution.
However, according to court records and public interviews, prosecutors engaged in questionable actions of making unauthorized tape recordings, overlooking inconsistencies in the evidence and offering generous deals to informers during detective Scarcella’s twenty plus years as a Brooklyn detective.
Although it appears the district attorney’s office is attempting to make amends for both Mr. Scarcella’s flawed investigations and its own past mistakes, there are those critics who question why Mr. Hynes is leading the investigation into these flawed cases when he was in charge of the district attorney’s office when the majority of the cases under review were prosecuted. Hynes took over the reins of the office in 1990, and thirty of the disputed cases occurred and the rest were appealed while he headed the Brooklyn DA’s office.
Critics also say Hynes’ civilian panel, which was created to ensure an unbiased examination of his office’s investigation into former detective Scarcella’s cases, is suspect because it includes several of Hynes’ friends and donors. Hynes is making his bid to be elected for a seventh term as Brooklyn’s District Attorney.