Brooklyn, NY - As the investigation into possible wrongdoing in some 40 cases handled by retired New York City detective Louis Scarcella continues, Brooklyn prosecutors, both past and present, are finding themselves under heavy scrutiny for either purposely ignoring or failing to catch disturbing patterns of impropriety in Scarcella-led investigations, many of which possibly led to innocent people serving lengthy prison sentences.
THE NEW YORK TIMES reports that careful review of some the cases currently being reviewed shows a deliberate pattern of prosectors defending Scarcella’s character and methodologies despite ample evidence pointing to suspicious, sometimes unscrupulous, practices routinely demonstrated by the former detective.
Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes’ ordered a review of dozens of cases investigated by Scarcella after 58 year-old David Ranta was released after serving 23 years on a Scarcella-led murder conviction involving the 1990 murder of Brooklyn Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger.
To date, DA Hyne’s office has declined to name the cases currently under review or the prosecutors affiliated with them.
Delving into past cases investigated by Scarcella, reports show repeated instances in which defendants would claim that Scarcella either coerced their confessions, or in some instances, made them up himself.
In many such instances, prosecutors would issue what amounted to “stock” defenses of Scarcella’s character aimed at discrediting the testimony of the defendants.
A typical stock Scarcella defense by a prosecutor came at a 1997 murder trial after the defendant had accused Scarcella of coercing a confession.
Former Brooklyn prosecutor Kyle C. Reeves told the court, “The defense wants you to accept that Detective Scarcella is going to come in here and throw away 24 years of his life, wants you to believe that Scarcella is going to risk his pension, his livelihood and his profession to obtain a confession. He’s going to risk all that? Very, very unlikely.”
Some former investigators, who asked that their names not be used, say that skepticism about Scarcella’s methods began to surface within the DA’s office as early as 1992, but that most prosecutors chose to keep their doubts to themselves due to Scarcella’s popularity with their bosses for “clearing cases.”
“Some prosecutors were leery; they didn’t trust it,” a former investigator said. “He was one of the best detectives in the city. He’s turning over all these cases, and the bosses loved him. You’re going to go to the boss and say, ‘This doesn’t look right’?’”
Steven Banks, chief attorney for the Legal Aid Society, who’s office is handling many of the cases currently under review, said, “Our experience all around the city is that errors by police and errors by prosecutors go hand in hand and frequently become a toxic mixture.
There are a series of circumstances that should have set off alarm bells both at the precinct and in the prosecutor’s office.”