BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- A man incarcerated since 1993 for a deadly shootout outside a Brooklyn housing development is a free man after his conviction was overturned Thursday.
Carlos Weeks, 46, has served 26 years behind bars for second-degree murder and first-degree assault convictions relating to a shooting in the NYCHA Tompkins Housing development in July of that year.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said the investigation by his Conviction Review Unit found that the testimony from the only eyewitnesses who identified Weeks as the shooter who killed a man and wounded a 10-year-old girl could not be credited.
"I just want to say I'm feeling good and happy to be out," Weeks said after leaving court. "And I hope Gonzalez continues with his conviction review work, because there's a lot of guys up there who need it. Thank you very much. I feel great. I feel great."
One of witnesses credibly recanted her testimony, Gonzalez said, while the other claimed she has no recollection of the incident.
"An extensive investigation into this old case revealed that the two witnesses who identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter were not credible," Gonzalez said. "Accordingly, we cannot stand by this conviction and will release the defendant, who spent 26 years behind bars. I would like to thank the prosecutors from my Conviction Review Unit for their persistence in this case. Their sole mission is to investigate questionable convictions and they will continue this crucial work in an effort to correct every miscarriage of justice that happened in Brooklyn."
The shootout between two small groups of men broke out in front of a building in the Tompkins Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Frank Davis, 21, was fatally shot, and a 10-year-old girl who was caught in the crossfire was seriously wounded.
Police recovered shell casings from three different guns.
Ten days after the incident, a man named Marshall Taylor who was arrested in East New York on an unrelated matter told the authorities that in the prior week, Weeks approached him while he was pumping gas and confessed that he, with two accomplices, committed the fatal shooting in retaliation against a group that had robbed them.
Less than an hour after he made the statement, Marshall's mother, Carmella Taylor, was brought to the precinct and stated that she lived in a building adjacent to the scene of the shooting and that she saw Weeks, whom she knew from the building, firing a gun.
Shortly thereafter, Carmella Taylor's sister, Lorraine Taylor, also provided a statement saying she was in the same 12th floor apartment with her sister, heard shots, ran downstairs with her sister, and saw Weeks throw a gun inside a car and drive off.
Both sisters identified Weeks in a lineup, and in subsequent testimony, both stated that they saw him shooting when they looked out of the 12th floor window. Carmella Taylor added that she saw Weeks run into the building, and other testimony indicated that three men were shooting at the victims with the deceased and his friend returning fire.
About a year after Weeks' indictment on the charges, Marshall Taylor died by suicide while incarcerated. At the 1995 trial, both Taylor sisters initially refused to testify and did so only after material witness orders were issued.
Weeks was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault and was sentenced to 27 1/2 years to life in prison.
Gonzalez said the Conviction Review Unit made repeated attempts to interview the Taylor sisters.
He said Lorraine Taylor was initially reluctant to speak, and when reminded by investigators of her account, she was asked by her husband, who was present, if she saw that much of what transpired.
Lorraine Taylor then reportedly teared up and said "no" and "there was so much pressure."
In subsequent interviews, she admitted that she never saw the faces of any of the shooters and went to the precinct to help her nephew, Marshall Taylor. She said that she felt pressured to testify at trial and was receiving threats that made her want to relocate, something that was promised in exchange for her testimony.
Gonzalez said Carmella Taylor claimed that she did not remember the 1993 shooting or testifying about it, a claim discredited as implausible.
Weeks was also interviewed and claimed that he and two friends were robbed at gun point by Marshall Taylor and the friend who was with him at the time of the shootout. He said he wasn't involved in the shooting and drove up to the scene after it ended.
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Conviction overturned for man behind bars since 1993 in deadly Brooklyn shootout