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Court: NYPD tainted lineup with only one dreadlocked suspect

ALBANY — New York City police improperly influenced an eyewitness when it trotted out a suspect lineup that included just one man wearing dreadlocks, who was subsequently convicted, the state’s top court has ruled.

The Court of Appeals unanimously ruled Tuesday that the lineup constructed by police that led to charges against Anthony Perkins, who allegedly committed four gunpoint robberies in Queens in 2007, was “unduly suggestive” to two eyewitnesses who identified Perkins.

According to court documents, two of the eyewitnesses used in the case had told investigators the assailant had long dreadlocks. Later, the NYPD detective working the case assembled a suspect lineup of four men in hats — but only Perkins had dreadlocks. The eyewitnesses then named Perkins as the suspect.

The lineup as constructed threw unfair suspicion on Perkins, his lawyer complained, asking for the eyewitnesses’ testimony to be suppressed. A trial judge rejected the motion and Perkins eventually was convicted on two robbery charges and sentenced to consecutive terms of 20 years to life. He is currently held at Groveland state prison, south of Rochester.

But the state’s top court now says the trial judge and an appellate court erred in allowing the testimony to stand. The lineup “should have been suppressed,” Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam wrote for the Court of Appeals. The judges ordered that one robbery count should be dismissed and Perkins’ case returned to trial court to proceed on the remaining charge — without the use of the eyewitnesses’ testimony about the lineup.

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