NYC detective's tactics, conviction legitimacy to be reviewed

May 12, 2013 at 7:45 PM
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NEW YORK, May 12 (UPI) -- New York City prosecutors say they will review about 50 murder cases investigated by a now-retired homicide detective whose methods drew red flags.

The intention to scrutinize every case prosecuted by retired Brooklyn borough Detective Louis Scarcella, 61, that ended in a guilty verdict follows the recent examination of a dozen of his cases that aroused suspicion, including those that relied on the same crack-addicted prostitute as a witness and those involving defendants who later said they had not given confessions, The New York Times reported Friday.

Defense lawyers, inmates and prisoner advocacy organizations have shared their own suspicions about Scarcella with the district attorney's office, the Times reported.

The prosecutor's office will re-interview available witnesses and examine any new evidence. If the office believes a conviction to have been unjust, it might ask for it to be dismissed, the Times reported.

The suspicion about Scarcella's tactics arose after a judge in March freed David Ranta, who had spent 23 years in prison after being convicted of murdering a rabbi. Prosecutors determined Ranta's conviction resulted largely from faulty police work by Scarcella and a partner, including their failure to go after a more logical suspect. An investigation revealed the two took out violent criminals from jail to allow them smoke crack cocaine and visit prostitutes in exchange for incriminating Ranta, the Times said.

A witness also said Scarcella told him who to pick in a lineup.

"Are you kidding me? Wow," Scarcella, who retired in 1999 from the police department, said about the planned murder case reviews. "This is quite a bit of a shock. Let them look at my convictions. I will help them if they need me."

Scarcella suggested that, after the news about Ranta, other convicts he helped put away believe he is a "get-out-of-jail-free key," the Times said.

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