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.