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

Ava DuVernay to Write and Direct Limited Series About Central Park Five at Netflix

Ava DuVernay (photo via Variety.com)

by Elizabeth Wagmeister via Variety.com

Ava DuVernay is continuing her relationship with Netflix, bringing a limited series about the Central Park Five case to the streaming giant. Netflix has greenlit the five-part scripted series for a 2019 debut. DuVernay created the project and will write and direct all five installments.

Participant Media, Tribeca Productions and Harpo Films are behind the limited series with Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Skoll, Jonathan King, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh serving as executive producers alongside DuVernay. The project is the latest collaboration for Winfrey and DuVernay who worked together on the Oscar-winning “Selma” and OWN’s “Queen Sugar.”

For DuVernay, the project marks a return to Netflix for the filmmaker who wrote and directed the platform’s 2016 documentary “13th.” “I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on ’13th’ and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project with Cindy Holland and the team there,” said DuVernay. “The story of the men known as Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the President of the United States.”

Based on the true story of the notorious Central Park Five case, each part of the limited series will focus on one of the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — who were wrongly convicted of raping Trisha Meili in Central Park. The series will span from the spring of 1989, when each were first questioned about the incident, to 2014 when they were exonerated and a settlement was reached with the city of New York.

To read full article, go to: Central Park Five Limited Series From Ava DuVernay Greenlit at Netflix | Variety

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

Wrongfully Arrested Ohio Man Arnold Black is Awarded $22 Million After Cop Beats Him, Locks Him in Closet for 4 Days

Arnold Black was awarded $22 million after cops wrongfully detained him, beat him and locked him in a closet for four days.

Arnold Black was awarded $22 million after cops wrongfully detained him, beat him and locked him in a closet for four days. (FOX8 CLEVELAND)

article by Meg Wagner via nydailynews.com

An Ohio man who was beaten by a drunk cop and left locked in a closet for four days without food, water or access to a bathroom was awarded $22 million in court.

Arnold Black sued East Cleveland police over his 2012 detainment, saying a pair of officers mixed up his car with that of a suspected drug dealer and wrongfully took him into custody. One of the cops reeked of alcohol — and punched Black for “messing up” his night at the bar, according to the lawsuit.

“The officer … grabbed me like this,” Black told Fox 8 while motioning with his hands. “And he held me up, and — Boom! — I just remember getting hit.”

Black said he was driving through the city in his green pickup truck in April 2012 when officers Jonathan O’Leary and Randy Hicks pulled him over and asked him where they could find drug dealers in East Cleveland.  The pair said they were hunting for a green truck carrying a load of cocaine — and Hicks, who was slurring his speech and reeked of booze, seemed upset that Black wasn’t the suspected drug dealer, the lawsuit alleged.  “I was at a bar with friends. You messed up my night,” Hicks told the driver.

The cop with the blood-shot eyes and cloudy coordination punched Black in the head, handcuffed him and then punched him again, the lawsuit alleged.  O’Leary, who did not appear to be drunk, stood back and did nothing to atop the attack.

The duo carted Black off to jail, but instead of sticking him in a cell, they locked him in a storage closet, Black said. Continue reading

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

Albert Woodfox, the Last of the ‘Angola 3,’ Released From Prison After Being Kept in Solitary for Over 40 Years

Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox has always maintained his innocence in the 1972 murder of a prison guard for which he was convicted. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

article by Ed Pilkington via theguardian.com

Albert Woodfox, the last incarcerated member of the “Angola 3,” was released from prison on his 69thbirthday, reports CNN.

Woodfox was going to a third trial for the 1972 slaying of prison guard Brent Miller at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, but pleaded no contest on Friday to lesser charges, according to a statement.

“Although I was looking forward to proving my innocence at a new trial, concerns about my health and my age have caused me to resolve this case,” he said.

Woodfox, who many consider a political prisoner, had spent more than 43 years under solitary confinement for Miller’s death, a practice that many criminal justice advocates, human rights groups and the United Nations equate to torture.

Woodbox was the longest-standing solitary confinement prisoner in America, held in isolation in a six-by-nine-foot cell almost continuously for 43 years.

Woodfox has always professed his innocence and marked his 69th birthday on Friday by being released from West Feliciana parish detention center. It was a bittersweet birthday present: the prisoner finally escaped a form of captivity that has widely been denounced as torture, and that has deprived him of all meaningful human contact for more than four decades. Continue reading

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