After serving two
consecutive 20-years to life sentences, a Brooklyn man’s persistence for a
review hearing was granted by a judge. Shabaka Shakur, 48, has spent the last 25-years in prison for
two murders he claims he did not commit. Shakur argues his conviction was the result
of a detective’s fabricated confession and a non-credible witness.
According to Shabaka, former Brooklyn North homicide
detective Louis Scarcella was responsible for his alleged incriminating
statement that was used as evidence against him.
Allegedly, Mr. Scarecella has a history of obtaining false
statements from defendants. The Brooklyn District attorney’s office is in the
process of reviewing 50 murder cases that are suspicious. Scarecella is
suspected of solving murder cases by proclaiming false statements from
After scrutinizing over a dozen similar cases, The New York Times was savvy enough to
notice a pattern of defendants arguing their convictions were false and
Scarcella was the investigator responsible for framing them. Criminal advocacy
organizations, defense lawyers and inmates were in alignment with the
suspicious synchronicity and requested the district attorney’s office dig
further into these cases.
Conjuring up bogus confessions was not the only consistency
found in the cases Scarcella handled. Murder suspects also claimed they were
railroaded by Scarcella using the same unreliable-eye witness for each case.
A crack-addicted prostitute was Scarcella’s chosen eyewitness
and source of false testimonials from suspects. Many of the defendants maintain
they never spoke with the spurious eye-witness.
61-year-old Scarcella is astonished at accusations of his
corrupt conduct and incompetent investigatory techniques. He denies
any wrongdoing. However, there are countless stories from inmates that were
coerced into admitting guilt in the 80s that are still spending time in
District Attorney Charles J. Hynes is working overtime to
evaluate which cases investigated by Scarcella are worthy of reexamining.
Rebuilding these shoddily handled cases is costing tax-payers money and the
Brooklyn D.A.’s office time.
Prosecutors are willing to dismiss cares they find unjust.
“People will look for blame,” said John O’Mara, who leads the Conviction
Integrity Unit. “Our goal isn’t to look for blame. Our goal is to correct
David Ranta was one of the fortunate individuals recently
released from prison after spending 23-years of his life paying for a crime he
did not commit. Ranta was convicted of killing a Rabbi because of false witness
statements and Scarcella and a partner’s slapdash police work. Instead of
pursuing valid suspects in this case, Scarcella and his partner negotiated with
violent crack addicted criminals for witness statements in return for freeing
them from jail.
When asked for an opinion on such unjust incarcerations, one
individual responded, “We read about this kind of thing often enough
that we can assume it goes on a lot. It is the natural product of underfunded
judicial systems as well as the existence within them of perverse incentives
that are like the noxious weeds in your garden.”
According to the International Center for Prison Studies at
King’s College, London, the United States has 2.3 million people behind bars.
This country has the highest incarceration rate in the world despite having
less than 5 percent of the world’s population. The U.S. houses almost a quarter
of the world’s prisoners.
These facts lead one to consider, what percentage of
America’s prisoners are innocent? How
many people have been unjustly imprisoned?