Lawyers for a New York inmate filed a new motion that seeks to exonerate him of a conviction involving a former NYPD detective who routinely fabricated evidence, Newsweek reported. This case illustrates the need for local district attorneys to aggressively investigate police misconduct, at a time when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no interest uprooting corrupt cops.
“This dude does the same thing to everybody! He implicated me into a crime I had nothing to do with,” Gerald Spencer said, referring to former Brooklyn Detective Louis Scarcella, who investigated the homicide case that resulted in Spencer receiving a 58-years to life sentence in 1989.
Scarcella, once hailed as a top crime fighter in the ‘80s and ‘90s, is now a disgraced retired cop. Nearly a dozen men had their convictions overturned after it came to light that Scarcella coached witnesses and forced confessions to help prosecutors win convictions. The inmate and his lawyers believe the former detective used some of his dirty tricks to put Spence behind bars.
The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit began in 2014 to review decades-old convictions involving allegations of corrupt policing. It has so far thrown out 24 convictions and is investigating more than 70 of Scarcella’s cases.
Aggressive and committed local district attorneys must step up and be willing to investigate police departments and the bad cops in those departments. They are unlikely to get much help from federal investigators. Unlike the Justice Department led by Eric Holder, Sessions has shown that he will turn a blind eye to possible police corruption. Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to put the brakes on the Obama administration’s agreements with troubled police forces. He also tried, but failed, to block implementation of an Obama-era agreement with the Baltimore Police Department. Fortunately, a federal judge interceded in that case. Sessions also announced plans to facilitate police department seizures of cash and property from crime suspects, a practice that critics warn breeds police corruption.
The Obama administration sought to improve the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve. Sessions’ policies goes against the efforts to remove bad cops and build community trust in law enforcement.