Conviction overturned for NYC man in prison for 21 years

Stacey Sager Image
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Wrongfully convicted NYC man released from prison after 21 years
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Stacey Sager speaks to the wrongfully convicted man and his family.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN (WABC) -- A conviction has been overturned for a man in prison 21 years for a murder he didn't commit.

Evidence that would have convinced a jury of the man's innocence was withheld.

What to do first after 21 years behind bars? Find the way home, of course, and maybe learn what a selfie is.

Jabbar Washington is now 43-years old and if he seems more dazed than the rest of his family, it's because these years have been hard, he says.

He was convicted for felony murder back in 1996, but it was overturned Wednesday afternoon at the request of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit.

"It was like a bad dream," Jabbar said. "It had to end someday, it had to."

In court, prosecutors outlined in detail the systemic failures in the 1980's and 1990's that brought them to this point.

In this case, they say prosecutors had intentionally led the jury to believe that a key witness, Lisa Todd, had identified Jabbar as the gunman, when it simply wasn't true.

"Not disclosing that Ms. Todd would not, could not, identify Mr. Washington as a perpetrator," said Mark Hale, Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney.

The acting Brooklyn District Attorney, Eric Gonzalez, was present in the courtroom, but did not comment on camera outside.

But there was plenty mentioned on the record about the now infamous New York City detective who handled Jabbar's case at the time, Louis Scarcella.

Dozens of his cases are still under review by the DA's office for misconduct, but it was all part of a larger culture of corruption back then, advocates say.

"And it didn't much matter if you got the right people, as long as you got most of the right people most of the time," said Ron Kuby, Jabbar Washington's Defense Attorney.

Some never gave up hope, even as life passed them by.

"She wasn't even born when this happened, now she's grown," Jabbar said.

Life was passing them by until now.

"I waited 21 years for this day," said Martha Washington, Jabbar's mother. "I knew something was wrong with that case from the beginning. But God is good, my baby here with me now."