Mr. Collins had been convicted of the 1994 killing of an Orthodox rabbi. He was released from prison in 2010, when a federal judge vacated his conviction and criticized the district attorney’s office for its handling of Mr. Collins’s trial.
The case is notable because it exposed questionable policies under the former Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes. Along the way, Mr. Collins’s lawyer, Joel B. Rudin, deposed Mr. Hynes and his top assistants, providing a rare look at how a powerful district attorney ran his office.
Mr. Rudin accused the office of detaining reluctant witnesses in hotel rooms until they agreed to testify, and of advising its lawyers not to take notes when prosecution witnesses gave inconsistent statements to avoid potentially exculpatory evidence. The city’s lawyers have challenged these claims.
The settlement is also notable for its size: Mr. Collins will receive a little more than $600,000 per year served, about a third less than the five men exonerated in the Central Park jogger case, who settled with the city this summer for about $1 million for each year in prison. The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial in October.
Mr. Collins, 42, began fighting his conviction while at Green Haven Correctional Facility, a maximum security state prison, tracking down witnesses who had testified against him and filing Freedom of Information Law requests. He was convicted of fatally shooting the rabbi, Abraham Pollack, as Mr. Pollack was collecting rent in an apartment building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. At trial, three witnesses said that Mr. Collins had talked about killing the rabbi or placed him at the scene of the crime.
But as Mr. Collins researched the case from prison and contacted the witnesses, he uncovered problems with their stories. One said he had been offered a perk by the district attorney’s office in return for testimony, and two others said they had been threatened by lawyers for the office. Mr. Collins also found that a prosecutor did not turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense.
Mr. Collins tried and failed to obtain a new state trial based on the evidence he had found. He sought a resolution in federal court, and enlisted the help of Mr. Rudin. In 2010, as a judge heard arguments about potential prosecutorial misconduct in his trial, the district attorney’s office agreed to vacate the murder conviction and to not retry Mr. Collins.
The wrongful-conviction settlement is one of several the city has reached this year, including a $6.4 million settlement for David Ranta, a man who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The city is facing several more such lawsuits as erroneous convictions from the crime-ridden 1980s and 1990s continue to be vacated.
Kate O’Brien Ahlers, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department, said that “after evaluating the claims and Mr. Collins’s specific case circumstances, we believe this settlement is fair and is in New York City’s best interests.”
“The district attorney’s office previously conceded that exculpatory evidence was withheld from Mr. Collins when he went to trial back in 1995,” she said, adding that the conviction and sentencing “resulted from violations of his constitutional rights.”
In July, Mr. Collins settled with the state under the Unjust Conviction Act for $3 million.
“We view this as a $13 million settlement,” Mr. Rudin said, adding that the city calculated the state’s settlement in its negotiations. “Thirteen million is a lot of money, although nothing can restore the loss of the best years of his life.”
Mr. Collins said in a statement that his goals were to “expose the illegal practices of District Attorney Hynes and to help drive him from office,” to “obtain personal vindication and to demonstrate my innocence,” and to receive compensation to balance the years in prison and the harm done to him and his family.
Mr. Rudin said, “The revelations in Jabbar Collins’s groundbreaking lawsuit of pervasive misconduct in Brooklyn led to more cases being overturned.”
article by Stephanie Clifford via nytimes.com