Dirty NYPD detective responsible for 15 false convictions back on stand as judge reviews 1988 murder conviction

Despite his dodgy background, retired Brooklyn detective Louis Scarcella relishes the spotlight. He is always dapper, in good physical shape and ready to train.

Yet last week at the Brooklyn courthouse, the spotlight went out. the Independent was the only outlet that covered Scarcella’s two-day testimony regarding his handling of the investigation into the 1986 murder case that resulted in the conviction of James “Wag” Jenkins and a 54-year life sentence .

The press missed a good show, with fireworks between Louie and an exonerated, the detective’s defiant bluster (“I never threatened witnesses!”), and Scarcella pointing the finger at the role of the DA’s office of Brooklyn in approval of his questionable arrests.

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez’s team doesn’t seem particularly concerned about Scarcella’s work, which has robbed most black Brooklynites of countless years.

The fact that the stage performer wore a K95 mask, face shield and bifocal glasses added a bizarre element to the testimony – Scarcella taking on a space alien aura.

Fifteen convictions in which Scarcella played a central role have resulted in exemptions. (A new trial in another case is scheduled for mid-June.) The statute of limitations has expired on any criminal penalties he may receive for wrongful initial arrests and false documents. Scarcella, however, may face perjury charges in post-conviction hearings.

But other than the two assistant prosecutors seeking to enforce Jenkins’ conviction, no other members of Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office attended Scarcella’s testimony last week. Gonzalez’s team doesn’t seem particularly concerned with the detective’s work, which has robbed most of Brooklyn’s black residents of countless years and cost the city. few millions in compensation.

As Louie left the courtroom for lunch last Wednesday, one of his exonerates, Shawn Williams, dropped his mask so Scarcella could see his face. Rather than look away, the detective glared at Williams, prompting the latter to drop an f-bomb. “He took over 20 years of my life!” exclaimed Williams as she left the courtroom.

Another Scarcella exonerate, Derrick Hamilton, is a paralegal assisting James Jenkins attorney Justin Bonus in the ongoing hearing before Brooklyn Judge Sharen Hudson, who will decide whether or not to uphold or vacate the conviction. In early 1988, a Brooklyn jury found 19-year-old Jenkins guilty of the October 1986 murder of 26-year-old Jaime Prieto in Crown Heights.

On the stand last week, Scarcella first said he remembered the Prieto case, where he was lead detective. Yet, aside from recalling the names of a few of the witnesses, the detective nevertheless denied any recollection of the most relevant details of his investigation.

“That was 36 years ago,” Louie often claimed after claiming he couldn’t remember the details of the Prieto case. This contrasts with a separate case handled by Scarcella which also involved Nathan Torres, the key witness against Prieto. This took place a year after Prieto’s murder, and among other details, Louie told the court that he remembered finding the murder weapon inside a hollowed-out radio.

Shawn Williams served 24 years in prison for a false murder conviction.

Scarcella nevertheless testified that he did not recall how he first learned that James Jenkins was a suspect in Prieto’s murder. Nor could he explain why the witness statements he presented verbatim in his police reports (called DD-5s) repeatedly referred to the suspect as “James”, even though everyone in the neighborhood knew Jenkins as name “Wag”. Louie admitted to changing the verbatim statements to include information about cops — the “northwest corner” of an intersection, a specific building address and more.

While the details of some investigations can certainly be more memorable than others, Scarcella’s memory loss regarding the witness identification procedures he conducted in the Prieto case is implausible. After initially insisting he was unfamiliar with the term “best practice”, Scarcella later maintained that he had received no training in identification procedures at the police academy, prompting grunts of disbelief among the many Jenkins supporters in the courtroom.

Derrick Hamilton served 26 years in prison for a false murder conviction.

Four witnesses identified Jenkins during a “show-up”, in which the suspect is the only person seen by the witness (via a one-way mirror). “I didn’t need to run a lineup,” Scarcella said. Yet, faced with the fact that three of the four witnesses did not know Jenkins or had not been interviewed, Louie then said that all three should have seen Jenkins placed in a queue.

Prior to the appearances, Scarcella also told witnesses a variation of “we’ve got the guy”. The trial judge in Jenkins therefore declared that show-ups were “a classic illustration of what not to do”. Louie’s handiwork nonetheless helped secure the indictment. At the current hearing, two witnesses who testified against Jenkins in his trial recanted. The prosecution team argues that because two other witnesses – the aforementioned Nathan Torres, as well as a woman struggling with a crack addiction – did not recant, the conviction should stand.

Scarcella drew attention to the role of the prosecutor’s office in approving her work in the case. He volunteered to have “an ADA named Jon Besunder read every DD-5, interview witnesses, and authorize the arrest of James Jenkins.” According to attorney Justin Bonus, Besunder’s name does not appear in any of the documents provided to the defense so far.

It was not the first time that Scarcella identified Besunder as a key player in the DA Homicide Bureau – but that was the detective’s clearest statement yet regarding Besunder’s role in overseeing arrests. Whether or not Besunder will testify at Jenkins’ current hearing is not yet clear. The prosecutor’s spokesperson declined to comment on Besunder’s role, citing the ongoing hearing.

Even as he involved the DA’s office, Scarcella also touted that even when overturning the detective-related convictions, Gonzalez’s office found “absolutely no wrongdoing for my part.” Conversely, in a pivotal appellate ruling on the detective’s cases, a state judge Noted that the prosecutor’s appeal team “did not once deny that Scarcella had committed a fault”. Gonzalez ran unopposed for reelection in 2021, so his problematic handling of Louie’s cases has not come under recent scrutiny.

“As we’ve seen so far, James Jenkins is innocent and was clearly framed by Detective Scarcella,” Bonus says. Louie will complete his testimony when the hearing resumes in mid-July.

Please support independent media today! Now celebrating its 22nd edition, The Independent is still standing but it’s not easy. Make a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and receive each copy directly to your home.

About Marion Alexander

Check Also

Impact of an intervention for preventable vision loss on visual function in the elderly – The Hyderabad Ocular Morbidity in Elderly Study (HOMES)

Bourne R, Steinmetz JD, Flaxman S, Briant PS, Taylor HR, Resnikoff S, et al. Trends …