The murder convictions of two men, Sharrif Wilson and Antonio Yarbough, were vacated by N.Y.S. Supreme Court Justice Raymond Guzman last week. The two men were 15 and 18 at the time of the murders and each had served 21 years in prison. District Attorney Ken Thompson consented to the vacatur and promptly dismissed the cases against them.
The two teenagers had been out together when Antonio Yarbrough returned home to find the grisly murder scene: his mother, young sister, and another young girl had been brutally murdered. The men consistently maintained their innocence and no physical evidence connected them to the crime. Last year, testing of material under Yarbrough’s mother’s fingernails revealed DNA that matched a subsequent rape and murder that occurred while the two were in prison. The killer remains unidentified.
- Antonio Yarbrough, Sharrif Wilson Exonerated For Triple Murder After Decades in Prison, Huffington Post (Feb. 9, 2014).
- Wrongfully Imprisoned Men Antonio Yarbough and Sharrif Wilson join “Piers Morgan Live”, Piers Morgan Live (Feb. 7, 2014).
- Haley Draznin, DNA Evidence Frees 2 Brooklyn Men Convicted in 1992 Triple Murder, CNN Justice (Feb. 6, 2014).
- Gabrielle Fonrouge, DNA Clears Men After 21 Years in Prison for Family’s Murder, New York Post (Feb. 6, 2014).
- Denis Hamill, Hamill: Tony Yarbough’s Brooklyn Murder Conviction Should be Reversed, Daily News (Jan. 19, 2014).
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Last weekend, I attended the annual conference of the Innocence Network. My clinic at Pace – the Post-Conviction Project – is a member of the Network, which has grown to include 62 independent nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and public defender offices dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people and reforming the criminal justice system to avoid future injustice. Most, but not all, of the affiliated projects are associated with law schools. Some conduct litigation on behalf of their clients; others investigate and refer cases to pro bono counsel. In 2012 Network organizations exonerated 26 wrongly convicted individuals. Members also vacated clients’ convictions, reduced sentences, gained release on parole, and won compensation for the wrongly convicted and later exonerated. The Network is an invaluable source of information and technical support for independent projects.
Attendees at the conference included exonerees and their families some of whom worked with THE MOTH to learn how to effectively tell a personal story to a live audience. For staff and project directors, the conference presented information on the latest developments in DNA testing, the science of arson investigation, victim perspectives, ethics, case management systems and many other topics. To learn more about the work of the Network click here: www.innocencenetwork.org