The Brooklyn district attorney’s office plans to ask a judge to vacate the murder convictions of three half brothers whose trials were linked to a now discredited homicide detective.
For the half brothers, who were convicted of murder decades ago, the news is extremely bittersweet.
Defendants Alvena Jennette, Robert Hill and Darryl Austin were placed in a state prison in the 1980s. While justice has finally come, it has come rather late.
Jennette already was released on parole back in 2007, and Austin passed away in prison 14 years ago at the age of 37.
“This is a bittersweet result for a family devastated by the criminal justice system,” said Pierre Sussman, the civil rights lawyer who represents the brothers. “While Mr. Hill is gaining his freedom and his brother Alvena recovering his good name, their brother Darryl died alone in a jail cell. And all three brothers had to live through their respective decades in prison knowing that their mother was suffering for them on the outside.”
While Hill will indeed be the only brother who truly gains freedom from the convictions being vacated, he was only weeks away from being released on parole.
If the Brooklyn district attorney’s request is granted, the defendants will become the first people connected to the discredited detective to be exonerated.
Former Detective Louis Scarcella, who was in charge of the case when the three brothers were convicted, used questionable tactics in the past that led to the wrongful conviction of a man who then had to serve 23 years behind bars.
In that case, Scarcella was accused of fabricating confessions, coercing witnesses and failing to turn in evidence that could have possibly cleared the name of the man being convicted.
Perhaps the most shocking of his tactics, using a fake witness, was part of the reason that Jennette, Hill and Austin were placed behind bars in the first place.
When other detectives failed to find any evidence against the brothers, Scarcella suddenly came forward with a witness by the name of Teresa Gomez.
Scarcella used Gomez as a witness in six other murder cases, and she often got crucial details about the cases wrong.
Gomez, who is now deceased, was also constantly contradicting other witness accounts.
Jennette can’t believe that Gomez and Scarcella were able to pull off the ploy for so long without anyone noticing.
“How was it possible that this woman testified in this many murder cases without nobody saying nothing,” Jennette asked.
More than 50 other cases linked to Scarcella are going to be reviewed by the district attorney’s office. That could possibly lead to more exonerations.