The Brooklyn district attorney is reviewing 50 murder cases assigned to an acclaimed homicide detective amid mounting questions about the officer's tactics and the legitimacy of the convictions, the New York Times reports. The office’s Conviction Integrity Unit will reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after an investigation by Detective Louis Scarcella, who handled some of Brooklyn's most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.
The Times examined a dozen of Scarcella’s cases and found disturbing patterns, including the detective's reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing. Defense lawyers, inmates, and prisoner advocacy organizations have shared their own suspicions about Scarcella. District Attorney Charles Hynes will give special scrutiny to cases that appear weakest because they rely on a single eyewitness or confession. Scarcella's name surfaced in March when a judge freed David Ranta, who spent 23 years in prison for murdering a rabbi. Prosecutors found that the conviction resulted in large part from flawed police work by Scarcella and a partner, including failing to pursue a more logical suspect.