Frederick Clay, Wrongfully Convicted of Murder, Wins Freedom Back after Nearly Four Decades in Prison

Frederick Clay, center, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1979 murder, leaves Suffolk Superior Court with attorneys Jeff Harris, left, and Lisa Kavanaugh yesterday. (photo credit: Angela Rowlings)

by Chris Villani via bostonherald.com

A Boston man who has maintained his innocence through nearly four decades behind bars was granted his freedom after Suffolk, MA prosecutors admitted his 1981 murder conviction was tainted by discredited witness identification and police tactics. “To quote Sam Cooke, ‘it’s been a long time coming,’ ” Frederick Clay said after walking out of the Suffolk Superior courtroom yesterday. “It’s been 38 years for something I didn’t do. I’m overwhelmed and sort of nervous.”

Clay, 53, emerged from the Boston courthouse with his arms raised and a wide smile on this face, having last experienced freedom when Jimmy Carter was in the White House and “Bad Girls” by Donna Summer was at the top of the charts. He was convicted of the 1979 execution-style murder of 28-year-old cab driver Jeffrey Boyajian, who was shot five times in the head at a Roslindale housing project.

“From day one, they told me I was facing natural life in prison,” Clay told reporters, “and that scared me. But I was not going to voluntarily put myself in prison for something I didn’t do.” Professing his innocence cost Clay at his first parole hearing in 2015, when the three board members who denied his release wrote that he had “yet to accept responsibility for his actions.”

One of the witnesses to the crime said he was sure about Clay’s guilt after being hypnotized by police, then a widely-accepted practice thought to enhance recollection. A second witness ID’d Clay after being promised he and his family could be relocated from their housing project if he helped investigators. Another man convicted in the slaying, James Watson, is still behind bars and prosecutors remain confident of his involvement.

Boyajian’s brother Jerry spoke in support of releasing Clay.“All my family has ever wanted was justice for my brother,” Boyajian said, recalling his older brother as a “jock” with a great sense of humor. “I really feel that justice failed Mr. Clay and, in that respect, it also failed my brother.”

To read full article, go to: Frederick Clay wins freedom, innocence back after nearly four decades in prison | Boston Herald

Derrick Deacon of Brooklyn, 58, Awarded $6 Million After Imprisoned 24 Years on Wrongful Murder Conviction

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Derrick Deacon, 58, hugs his attorney Rebecca Freedman, at State Supreme Court after being acquitted for the 1989 robbery and murder of a 16-year-old named Anthony Winn. (JESSE WARD/JESSE WARD FOR NEW YORK DAILY NE)

A Brooklyn man who spent more than 24 years in prison for a murder conviction that was later thrown out by an appeals court has accepted the city’s offer of $6 million to settle his federal lawsuit, the Daily News has learned.

Derrick Deacon was re-tried for the murder in 2013 by the office of then-Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, and the jury acquitted him after deliberating merely nine minutes.  “Based upon newly discovered evidence which implicated another man as the actual killer, the court vacated Mr. Deacon’s conviction and granted him a new trial,” Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for the city Law Department said in a statement.

“We have determined that a settlement of this civil suit is fair and in the best interests of the City.”  Deacon, 61, was convicted of robbing and killing Anthony Wynn in April 1989 inside an East Flatbush building. A key eyewitness who pocketed a $1,000 Crimestoppers reward from the NYPD fingered him as the murderer.

But the case began to unravel in 2001 when a federal informant who had been a member of a violent gang called the Patio Crew gave the feds the name of the real killer. The Appellate Division for the Second Department reversed Deacon’s conviction in 2013, but the D.A.’s office refused to drop the case against him.

“The case should have never been retried and the acquittal after nine minutes was a slap in the face of the D.A.’s office,” his lawyer Glenn Garber said Monday. “This settlement is some level of redemption and compensation for Derrick’s suffering.”

To read more, go to: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/brooklyn-man-6m-24-years-wrongfully-prison-article-1.2852913

Flawed Evidence Prompts Brooklyn DA to Dismiss Homicide Case Against Wayne Martin, Who Served Nine Years Prison

Attorney James Henning with his client Wayne Martin at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn on July 21. (JESSE WARD/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)BYCHRISTINA CARREGA-WOODBYNEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

article by Christina Carrega-Woodby via nydailynews.com

A Brooklyn man who served almost nine years in prison for a double homicide had his case dismissed on Wednesday by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. Wayne Martin was released on his own recognizance last month as prosecutors investigated whether they should retry him for the 2005 murders of Donald Turner Sr. and Ricardo Davids inside Gary’s Tire Emporium in East Flatbush.

“Following a thorough re-examination of this case, I have concluded that a lack of reliable evidence, compounded by the utter failure to disclose exculpatory evidence at the original trial, would make it impossible to retry this case,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson. “Therefore, we moved today to dismiss the indictment against Mr. Martin in the interest of justice,” he added.

The main evidence against Martin was a wool hat found at the crime scene. It was not photographed by crime scene detectives. As Martin’s attorney requested documents from the case’s file in preparation to make an appeal, prosecutors noticed that a paragraph on court documents that named another suspect was removed. The Conviction Review Unit was alerted and questioned the trial’s prosecutor Marc Fliedner, who left the office in June.

To read full article, go to: Brooklyn homicide case dismissed after man serves nine years – NY Daily News

Vanessa Gathers, 58, Exonerated After Serving 10 Years for Manslaughter Conviction in Brooklyn

Vanessa Gathers, 58, with Ken Thompson, the Brooklyn district attorney, after her manslaughter conviction was vacated on Tuesday. (Photo: ANDREW KELLY FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Vanessa Gathers, 58, with Ken Thompson, the Brooklyn district attorney, after her manslaughter conviction was vacated on Tuesday. (Photo: ANDREW KELLY FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

article by Sara Maslin via nytimes.com

In a gray suit, her short hair neatly curled, Vanessa Gathers sat in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn last Tuesday, beaming as the judge spoke words she had waited nearly two decades to hear: The manslaughter conviction for which she had spent 10 years in prison was vacated, the judge said, after an investigation revealed that her confession to the crime was false.

In an instant, Ms. Gathers was no longer a convicted criminal. The judge, Justice Matthew J. D’Emic, smiled back. “Good luck!” he said.

Ms. Gathers, 58, is the first woman to have been exonerated by the Conviction Review Unit, a special unit created by the Brooklyn district attorney to look into scores of cases linked to Louis Scarcella, a retired detective whose tactics led to the wrongful convictions of more than a dozen people, according to the district attorney’s office. The unit is examining 100 cases, many of them involving Mr. Scarcella.

Mark Hale, an assistant district attorney, told the judge that an investigation into Ms. Gathers’s case had determined that she had been wrongfully convicted and that her confession had been coaxed, fed to her by Mr. Scarcella.

“We have grave doubts and, in fact, do not believe that it was true,” Mr. Hale said.

After the hearing, the Brooklyn district attorney, Ken Thompson, spoke outside the courtroom. “These wrongful convictions represent a systemic failure, a failure by prosecutors, defense attorneys, by judges, by the system,” he said. “These wrongful convictions destroy lives, and no matter what happens, Ms. Gathers will not get back those 10 years.”

Ms. Gathers was convicted of manslaughter in the death of Michael Shaw, 71, who was attacked and robbed inside his apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991. He died of complications from the assault six months later, in 1992. Ms. Gathers was convicted in 1998, and has been free since she was paroled on March 2, 2007, after serving 10 years in prison.

Ms. Gathers was approached by Mr. Scarcella on the street a month after Mr. Shaw’s death “because she fit the description of one of the assailants,” according to a statement released by the district attorney’s office. She denied being connected to the attack, and pointed to a woman who she believed had done it, but years later, as the investigation continued, she was again interrogated by Mr. Scarcella. In 1997, she confessed — the only evidence presented at trial.

But an examination by Mr. Thompson’s office determined that Ms. Gathers had “made a false confession based, in part, on the defendant’s inability to articulate her role in the assault; perceived inaccuracies in the statement itself; and the lack of details in the statement,” the district attorney’s statement said. Investigators determined that the “complete lack of a coherent narrative in the defendant’s confession, combined with apparent factual errors, amount to reasonable doubt in the validity of the confession itself.”

Among those inconsistencies, Mr. Hale said in court on Tuesday, were statements that the victim had been in a wheelchair. In fact, he had never used one.

While imprisoned, Ms. Gathers had an impeccable record and consistently maintained her innocence, even at three parole hearings, where it may have been more expedient to admit to the crime in hopes of being released, said Lisa Cahill, a lawyer with Hughes Hubbard & Reed, which represented Ms. Gathers, along with the Legal Aid Society. “And it wasn’t because of calculations or because of some Machiavellian foresight,” Ms. Cahill said. “It is because she is fundamentally a decent woman.”

To read more, go to: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/nyregion/womans-manslaughter-conviction-in-1991-death-to-be-vacated.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ur_20160224&nl=nytoday&nlid=58278902&ref=headline&referer=&_r=0

Los Angeles to Pay $24 Million to Two Men Imprisoned for Decades After Wrongful Murder Convictions

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to pay more than $24 million to settle lawsuits from two men who alleged that investigations by dishonest Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives led to their wrongful murder convictions and caused them to spend decades behind bars.

Kash Delano Register, who won his freedom in 2013 after lawyers and students from Loyola Law School cast doubt on the testimony of a key prosecution witness, will receive $16.7 million — the largest settlement in an individual civil rights case in the city’s history, his attorneys said. Bruce Lisker, who was released from prison in 2009 after a Times investigation into his conviction, will get $7.6 million.

Though the cases were unrelated, both men contended that detectives ignored evidence of their innocence and fabricated evidence of their guilt.

City lawyers concerned about the police misconduct allegations recommended the settlements, saying in confidential memos to the City Council obtained by The Times that taking the cases to trial could be even more financially devastating.

“This is an extremely dangerous case,” city attorneys wrote of the Lisker case. And Register’s case was even “more problematic,” they said.

“Today’s action helps make amends for the many years these men will never get back, and for lives that will never be the same,” said Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer.

City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the budget committee that weighs settlement payments, said the two cases were the “very unfortunate” result of police misconduct in the past, but did not reflect how the department operates today.  “It’s just regrettable that these two individuals spent the better part of their lives in prison as a result of the inadequacy of the investigations that happened back then,” Krekorian said.

Register, who has always maintained his innocence, spent 34 years in custody after being convicted of the 1979 armed robbery and murder of Jack Sasson, 78.  The case against Register was based on eyewitness testimony. No murder weapon was recovered and none of the fingerprints lifted at the West Los Angeles crime scene matched Register’s. Police seized a pair of his pants that had a speck of blood on them, but the blood type matched both Sasson’s and Register’s. Register’s girlfriend testified that he was with her at the time of the shooting.

A key prosecution witness in the case was Brenda Anderson, who told police she heard gunshots and saw Register sprinting away from the scene. She picked him out of a photo lineup, police said. But Anderson’s sisters said they told police that her account wasn’t true.

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Korey Wise Of “Central Park Five” Donates $190,000 to Help Fight Wrongful Convictions

Korey Wise (photo via cnews.com)

Korey Wise (photo via cnews.canoe.com)

The University of Colorado’s Innocence Project got a boost and a new name with a $190,000 donation from Korey Wise, a man exonerated in New York City’s high-profile Central Park jogger case.

The program, operated out of CU’s law school, is now named the Korey Wise Innocence Project at Colorado Law. Wise’s donation allowed the student-led volunteer program to hire a full-time director this fall and provides financial support for its investigative work.

The Innocence Project is a national nonprofit with chapters across the country that investigate claims of wrongful convictions. Colorado’s chapter was founded in 2001 under the Colorado Lawyers Committee and moved to the CU law school in 2010.

Wise was 16 when he was tried and convicted as an adult in connection with the 1989 attack and rape of a female jogger in Central Park.

He spent more than a decade in prison and was exonerated in 2002 after another man admitted to the attack and DNA testing confirmed his involvement. The convictions of the four other men accused in the attack were also overturned.

The men, who became known as the Central Park Five, settled with the city of New York for $41 million in 2014.

This is believed to be Wise’s first major philanthropic gift.

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District of Columbia Agrees to $16.65M Settlement with Donald Gates, Wrongly Imprisoned for 27 Years

Donald Gates (Photo Source: nnomcenceprorject.org)

Donald Gates (Photo Source: innocenceprorject.org)

The District of Columbia agreed Thursday to pay $16.65 million to a man who spent 27 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit.

The amount is about $617,000 for every year Donald Eugene Gates spent in prison. Gates was freed in 2009 after DNA evidence cleared him in the 1981 rape and murder of 21-year-old Georgetown University student Catherine Schilling. A federal jury on Wednesday found that two city police officers fabricated and withheld evidence in the case, and city officials agreed to a settlement Thursday as the jury was getting ready to decide damages in the case.

According to court records, former homicide detectives Ronald S. Taylor and Norman Brooks, both now retired, fed information to an unreliable informant. The informant claimed Gates confessed to him while in jail and that he was tied to DNA evidence. This led to a D.C. Superior court finding Gates guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison. During this time, Gates maintained his innocence and suffered until 2009. It was then that he was cleared based on DNA evidence and the real culprit was identified. Because of the conduct of the officers and his wrongful imprisonment, Gates was earlier awarded $1.4 million under a law that gives $50K per year of imprisonment of innocent people who waive their rights to sue the US government.

In response to the jury verdict, Gates is quoted as saying, “It feels like the God of the King James Bible is real, and he answered my prayers.” Gates, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., added as he left the courtroom, “Justice is on the way to being fulfilled. . . . It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”

article via fox5dc.com and rollingout.com

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