By Christopher Zoukis
Derrick Deacon spent more than 24 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. After having his conviction thrown out by an appeals court and being found not guilty in a subsequent retrial, Deacon, 61, sued the City of New York for malicious prosecution.
On November 1, 2016, the New York Daily News reported that he had accepted $6 million to settle his claims.
Deacon was charged with and convicted of the April 1, 1989 shooting death of 16-year-old Anthony Wynn in a Brooklyn apartment hallway. The conviction was obtained on the basis of an eyewitness, Abdullah Pickering, who fingered Deacon – reportedly a drug user – in order to collect $1,000 from a Crime Stoppers hotline. Deacon insisted that he was not near the scene of the crime and proclaimed his innocence. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.
The case began to unravel in 2001, when a federal informant, Trevor Brown, told the FBI that minutes after Wynn was murdered, a gang member named Pablo confessed the crime to him. According to Brown, Wynn was killed by Pablo during a botched robbery attempt.
It took eight years, but in 2009, Deacon finally got Brown on the stand. He also obtained the testimony of Colleen Campbell, who was threatened by law enforcement before testifying for the defense at the initial trial. Campbell, who told investigators that she saw someone else fleeing the scene immediately following the shooting, testified that investigators had threatened to take her children away if she didn’t give vague testimony in court.
“I was fearful of the real perpetrator and others who may have been associated with him. Being noncommittal about [Deacon] seemed to be the safest and easiest approach at the time,” she said at the 2009 hearing.
Justice Albert Tomei refused to set the verdict aside, but three years later the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reversed Deacon’s conviction, stating, “the likely cumulative effect of the newly discovered evidence and the recantation testimony established a reasonable probability that the result of a new trial would be a verdict more favorable to the defendant.” See: People v. Deacon, 96 A.D.3d 965, 946 N.Y.S.2d 613 (N.Y. App. Div. 2d Dep’t 2012).
The Brooklyn district attorney refused to let the case go, however, and retried Deacon in November 2013. It took a jury nine minutes to find him not guilty.
“There was no case,” the foreperson said after the trial. “There was never a shred of evidence against Derrick Deacon. Why did they try him a second time if he’s been in jail for 24 years?”
Perhaps officials in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office should ask themselves that question six million times, since taxpayers are now on the hook for the settlement in Deacon’s lawsuit.
“The case should have never been retried and the acquittal after nine minutes was a slap in the face of the D.A.’s Office,” stated attorney Glenn Garber, who is also the director of the Exoneration Initiative, which championed Deacon’s case. “This settlement is some level of redemption and compensation for Derrick’s suffering.”
The $6 million settlement for malicious prosecution was in addition to $3.9 million Deacon had previously obtained from the State of New York for his wrongful incarceration.
Sources: www.nydailynews.com, www.dailymail.co.uk, www.law.umich.edu
This article originally appeared in Prison Legal News on August 30, 2017.
About Christopher Zoukis
Christopher Zoukis is an outspoken prisoner rights and correctional education advocate who is incarcerated at FCI Petersburg Medium in Virginia. He is an award-winning writer whose work has been published widely in major publications such as The Huffington Post, Prison Legal News, New York Daily News and various other print and online publications. Learn more about Christopher Zoukis at christopherzoukis.com and prisoneducation.com.