Three half-brothers were exonerated inside a Brooklyn courthouse Tuesday after their convictions were found by the district attorney to be based on questionable evidence. And all three cases were handled by the same detective, a man who's now under investigation himself. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
"The people's motion to dismiss the indictment is granted. The indictment is dismissed and sealed. This constitutes decision and order of the court," said a Brooklyn judge.
There was clapping in the courtroom after a Brooklyn judge threw out the murder convictions and indictments of three men Robert Hill, Alveana Jenette and Darryl Austin, all half-brothers wrongly convicted in two separate cases linked by the same detective.
"I'm feeling great that everything is over with. I just thank God every day,” said Jenette.
"When they told you you were leaving what was your reaction?” asked a reporter.
"Oh God, I just had to cry,” said Hill.
Hill had been behind bars since 1988. Jenette spent 20 years locked up and was out on parole. Their sibling Austin died in prison. His mother stood in court on his behalf.
"I'm feeling real good,” she said.
Prosecutors asked for the dismissal saying the main witness in the cases was problematic. She was a crack addict who often testified in cases investigated by detective Louis Scarcella. He's come under fire for his work. The new Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has created a conviction review team to go through what sources say is almost 100 questionable convictions.
"Legal Aid is looking at a number of cases involving Det. Scarcella and we are conducting a number of investigations,” said Harold Ferguson, Hill’s attorney.
But Scarcella stands by his work. His lawyer issued a statement saying Scarcella was part of a team.
"All of the evidence in these cases was thoroughly vetted and continuously reviewed by the office,” reads the statement.
That office was run by former DA Charles Hynes. In court Thursday, other men who are fighting their convictions under Hynes and investigated by Scarcella showed up with hope for their own cases.
"It's a very good day in Brooklyn,” said one Brooklynite.
More prisoners who say they were wrongfully convicted may soon have their day in court. Lawyers say there are six additional murder cases tied to that same witness who was on drugs and has since died.