Brooklyn prosecutors are examining 50 homicide convictions involving a retired police detective who may have intimidated suspects into confessing to crimes they never committed – with words he chose.
Louis Scarcella was a celebrated member of the Brooklyn North Homicide squad through the crack-cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, when he gained a reputation for his unusual ability to draw out confessions. He investigated about 175 murders alone and helped with almost 200 more, but questions have been raised on whether Scarcella coerced, or even entirely fabricated, the admissions of guilt.
The inquiries began after David Ranta was released from prison earlier this year. Ranta, once a drug addict and petty criminal, spent nearly 23 years in prison for the 1990 murder of a Brooklyn rabbi, despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime other than a confession statement he maintains he didn’t write. The investigating detective was Louis Scarcella.
Upon reviewing the cases Scarcella was involved in throughout his 29-year career with the NYPD, The New York Times discovered some alarming coincidences among the confessions. In at least five, the suspects begin their statement with the phrases “You got it right” or “I was there.” Ranta’s statement, which he has always denied delivering, begins, “I was there.”
Scarcella relied on a drug addicted prostitute to act as a witness in at least six different, unconnected murder trials. Teresa Gomez has since died, but lawyers said she was “Louie’s go-to witness,” despite major credibility issues.
An off-duty police officer gunned down his wife on a Queens street last night before turning the weapon on himself…
Sherlon Smikle, 33, chased his wife, an NYPD school-safety agent, down the block outside their St. Albans home at about 7 p.m., then blasted her four times with a shotgun, the sources said. Her name was not immediately released.
The eight-year NYPD veteran then went back into his Camden Avenue house and fatally shot himself, according to the sources.
Smikle flew off the handle when his wife came home late from work and didn’t cook dinner, a source said.
June 13, 2013 — The New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Bergstein & Ullrich, LLP today filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a driver who got a speeding ticket in the Catskills town of Liberty and ended up arrested and prosecuted under New York’s aggravated harassment statute for exercising his right to free speech and expressing his dissatisfaction with the ticket. The driver was prosecuted after writing expletives on the ticket payment form and crossing out the town’s name of “Liberty” and replacing it with “Tyranny.”
Connecticut resident Willian Barboza, 22, was pulled over for speeding in the Sullivan County Town of Liberty in May 2012. He pleaded guilty by mail, and when he paid his fine expressed his frustration by scratching out “Liberty” and replacing it with “Tyranny” and writing “fuck your shitty town bitches” on the payment form. His payment was rejected, and he was instead ordered to travel the two hours from his home to make a court appearance. At that October 2012 court hearing, a judge berated Barboza about his language, and he was handcuffed and arrested for violating the state “aggravated harassment” statute. He was booked, fingerprinted, handcuffed to a bench and forced to pay $200 bail.