Letter to Mayor de Blasio

September 24, 2015

Hon. William de Blasio
Mayor of the City of New York
One City Hall
New York, New York

Dear Mayor de Blasio:

We are the wrongfully convicted. Some of us have been exonerated in the past several years; many others wait as prosecutors and the courts review our cases.

Two recurrent themes run through much of the injustices that we have endured. First, faulty eyewitness identification—either mistaken or manipulated—was a contributing factor to many of our convictions. The second frequent contributing factor was the extraction of false confessions, through psychological or physical coercion. In at least one case, the confession resulting in conviction was completely fabricated by the investigating detective.

We are not alone. Of the twenty-nine exonerations in New York that have been proven by DNA evidence, misidentifications or false confessions played a role in ALL of them. Fifty-two percent were the result of misidentifications and forty-eight percent were caused by false confessions. The unreliability of eyewitness identifications, particularly cross-racial identifications of strangers made under conditions of high stress, have been fully documented in the social science literature. So too is there extensive research on the widespread phenomenon of false confessions. Tragically, these types of evidence, despite their well-known flaws, tend to be the most compelling to a jury.

We write to request that you direct the NYPD to immediately implement two reforms that have been proven to reduce mistaken eyewitness identifications and false confessions. First, all investigatory and post-arrest lineups conducted by the NYPD must be “double blind.” That is, neither the officers conducting the line-up, nor the witness, know the identity or location in the line-up of the actual suspect. This eliminates the possibility of investigating officers—deliberately or unconsciously—improperly suggesting the identity of the suspect to the witness. Second, all suspect “interviews” and interrogations must be videotaped from the beginning of the encounter until the end. This reform will ensure that improper police techniques will be exposed and proper techniques will guarantee the confession’s admissibility.

New York City, long a leader in criminal justice reform, has lagged badly with respect to these reforms. According to data from the Innocence Project, twenty-two states, including New Jersey and Connecticut, record interrogations either through law or court action. Approximately one thousand other jurisdictions do so voluntarily. Fifteen states require blind administration of lineups. Both practices are endorsed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major City Chiefs Conference, and the American Bar Association.

The cost of wrongful convictions is beyond imagination. We wrongfully convicted have lost centuries of human life while behind bars. Our loved ones have spent their lives trying to vindicate us, too often passing before our exoneration. While we carry the burden of innocence in prison, the actually perpetrators are free to commit more crimes. Looking again to the twenty-nine DNA exonerations in New York, real perpetrators were identified; five of whom were convicted of a total of ten subsequent violent crimes, including five murders and three rapes. The financial cost to the taxpayers has already exceeded one hundred million dollars in recent years, and the Comptroller has warned of even greater costs as more of us win our freedom.

We recognize that these injustices took place before your mayoralty. But while you bear no blame for the past, insuring present and future justice is very much your obligation. These reforms require no legislation. You need no approval from the City Council, or from Albany, or from Congress. You need no blue-ribbon panel, task force, or pilot program. You need only the political will to act, as a leader, and we expect and deserve no less.

We would like to meet with you further share our perspective of these urgently-needed changes. Please contact our coordinators, Derrick Hamilton, We Care for our Communities, toool2009@yahoo.com, (646) 371-7409 and Shabaka Shakur, Absolutely Innocent, shabakashakur33@gmail.com; Lonnie Soury, LSoury@Soury.com, 212-414-5857; or our general counsel, Ronald L. Kuby, RonKuby@aol.com, 212-529-0223.


The Exonerated

Daryl Austin, Brooklyn, 23 years incarcerated, died before exoneration in 2014 (Scarcella)
Reginald Connor, Brooklyn, 23 years incarcerated, exonerated 2015
Jeffrey Deskovic, Westchester, 16 years incarcerated, exonerated 2006
Eric Glisson, Bronx, 18 years incarceration, exonerated 2014
Cye Green, Brooklyn, 21 years incarcerated, exonerated 2006
Derrick Hamilton, Brooklyn, 21 years incarcerated, paroled in 2012, exonerated 2014 (Scarcella)
Robert Hill, Brooklyn, 25 years incarcerated, exonerated 2014 (Scarcella)
Alvena Jennette- Brooklyn, 25 years incarcerated, exonerated 2014, (Scarcella)
Kian Katabi, Westchester, 9 1/2 years incarcerated, exonerated 2008
David McCallum, Brooklyn, 29 years incarcerated, exonerated in 2014
Henry McCollum, NC, 30 years on death row in North Carolina, exonerated 2014
Shabaka Shakur, Brooklyn, 27 years incarcerated, exonerated 2015 (Scarcella)
Marty Tankleff, Suffolk County, 17 years incarcerated, exonerated 2009
Everton Wagstaffe, Brooklyn, 23 years incarcerated, exonerated 2015

Released and Awaiting Exoneration

Sundhe Moses, Brooklyn, 18 years incarcerated, paroled, 2014, awaiting exoneration (Scarcella)
Kevin Smith, Brooklyn, 27 years incarcerated, paroled, 2013, awaiting exoneration (Scarcella)
Damien Echols, Arkansas, 18 years on death row, freed in 2011 on Alford plea, awaiting exoneration
Jesse Friedman, Nassau County, 13 years, pending innocence hearing in Nassau County, awaiting exoneration

Awaiting Exoneration and Still Incarcerated

Hector Lopez, Brooklyn 21 years (Scarcella)
James Earl Jenkins, Brooklyn, 27 years (Scarcella)
Nelson Cruz, Brooklyn, 15 years (Scarcella)
Thomas Malik, Brooklyn, 20 years (Scarcella)
Jabbar Washington, Brooklyn, 19 years (Scarcella)
Mike Flournoy, Brooklyn, 20 years
Danny Rincon, Manhattan, 23 years
Jon-Adrian Velazquez, Manhattan, 18 years
Johnnie Hincapie, Manhattan, 25 years, awaiting October 6, 2015 decision on actual innocence motion
Devon Miller, Bronx, 7 years
Tony Dunbar, Brooklyn, 10 years
Jermaine Archer, Brooklyn, 17 years
Lorenzo Johnson, PA, freed after 17 years, DA appealed to US Supreme Court, returned to prison where he resides today, 18 years
Richard Diguglielmo, Westchester, 16 years, freed, returned to prison for 20 year to life
Willie Kearse, Brooklyn, 27 years
Tyronne Johnson, Queens, 20 years
Stephen Brathwaite, Queens, 21 years
Robert Jones, Queens, 21 years
Manny Lugo, Bronx, 23 years, hearing denied, awaiting Appellate Court review
Calvin Buari, Bronx, 23 years
Sherman Adams, Manhattan, 15 years
Richard Rosario, Bronx, 19 years
Ricky Caldwell, Brooklyn, 32 years
Aaron Waymon, Brooklyn, 17 years
Harry Ruiz, Manhattan, 20 years
Adrian Sullivan, Brooklyn, 10 years
Frankie Hernandez, Brooklyn, 18 years
Frantz Sital, Brooklyn, 22 years
John Giuca, Brooklyn, 10 years.

cc: Maya Wiley, Counsel to the Mayor
c/o LReisman@cityhall.nyc.gov