B'klyn DA reviews cases after complaints
The Brooklyn district attorney's office is reviewing roughly 50 cases assigned to a homicide detective amid mounting concerns over the tactics that led to many of the resulting murder convictions, a spokesman from the district attorney's office said Saturday.
The office's Conviction Integrity Unit has been ordered to reopen every murder case resulting in a conviction that was assigned to the detective, Louis Scarcella, during the high-crime, crack-epidemic era of the 1980s and '90s.
The review was ordered after The New York Times published a story investigating a dozen cases assigned to Scarcella, exposing questionable detective work, including using the same key witness in several murder cases.
Scarcella told witnesses whom to choose in a lineup and coerced false testimony from them, the Times reported, based on interviews with dozens of lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses and suspects. The story was posted online last night.
According to the Times, the district attorney's office has received complaints about shoddy police work by Scarcella. Officials told the newspaper that their staff will re-interview available witnesses and target murder cases that appear weakest because they rely on one eyewitness or a confession.
District attorney's office spokesman Sandy Silverstein Saturday called the Times story "accurate," but said the review of Scarcella's detective work was not prompted by the Times investigation. He would not comment further.
Scarcella, 61, who retired from the police force in 1999, could not immediately be reached for comment.
He told the Times: "Let them look at my convictions . . . . I expect [the DA] will find nothing."
The district attorney's probe into his tactics began in March when a judge freed David Ranta, who spent 23 years in prison after being convicted of murdering a rabbi. Prosecutors determined that flawed police work on Scarcella's part led to Ranta's conviction.