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Long IslandCrime

Defense in murder case calls for dismissal after DA misconduct

Shawn Lawrence, seen in Suffolk County Court in

Shawn Lawrence, seen in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead on June 22, 2015, was convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in a 2010 shooting. Credit: James Carbone

There is more “blatant misconduct” than credible evidence against a North Amityville man sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for killing one man and shooting two others, according to a motion his lawyer filed Monday seeking to have the charges dismissed.

The Suffolk district attorney’s office has already agreed that all charges against Shawn Lawrence, 44, should be dismissed because of misconduct and unreliable witnesses. State Supreme Court Justice William Condon has suggested he would do that and freed Lawrence with no bail last month, but asked for written motions from both sides before he issues a ruling.

Lawrence was convicted of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for a Jan. 12, 2010, shooting that ended the life of James Terry, 44, also of North Amityville.

“It is now undeniable that credible evidence of Shawn Lawrence’s guilt for the crimes with which he is charged simply does not exist, if it ever did,” defense attorney Laura Solinger wrote in her motion.

Both she and the district attorney’s office declined to comment.

This would be the fifth Suffolk murder defendant in the past year to have murder charges dismissed at least in part because of prosecutorial misconduct. Trial prosecutor Glenn Kurtzrock, who was forced to resign because of misconduct in one of those cases, handled all of them, although Solinger’s motion said an earlier prosecutor in the Lawrence case, Robert Biancavilla, also violated Lawrence’s rights.

After Kurtzrock was forced to leave, the district attorney’s office reviewed all his cases. In this one, Solinger wrote that prosecutors found 45 items of evidence that should have been shared with the defense, but weren’t. Under what is known as the Brady rule, prosecutors are generally required to share evidence that could be favorable to the defense.

Among the items withheld from Lawrence and his lawyers, according to Solinger’s motion:

  • One of the witnesses against Lawrence got $4,000 from the district attorney’s office to relocate for his safety.
  • One of the other victims, David Hodges, was shot in the head and could not testify. Still, Det. Thomas Walsh testified that he picked out Lawrence in a photo array two years after the crime. But his notes that Hodges, while a patient at Good Samaritan Hospital, had identified two other people as the shooters were withheld.
  • A gun used in the murder was found five months later in the possession of a 15-year-old boy. The ballistics report wasn’t turned over, the motion said, although Biancavilla said he did turn it over.
  • No information about that boy or six others said to be involved in the crime was turned over.

In addition, Biancavilla failed to tell the grand jury that indicted Lawrence that he had an alibi witness, Solinger wrote. Biancavilla said Monday he would have had that witness testify if Lawrence’s lawyer at the time had brought her in.

Kurtzrock’s attorney, David Besso of Bay Shore, said his client didn’t cause any of the problems with the case. “If there’s fault in this case, it doesn’t lie with him,” Besso said.