With an interesting perspective on the problem of wrongful convictions, the investigators, Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn, tell the story of how they helped uncover and produce the evidence that established a wrongful conviction in Brooklyn. Take a moment to read the full article about the Jonathan Fleming case, written by one of the investigators.
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).
In People v. Minor, the Appellate Division, First Department unanimously reversed a second degree murder conviction on the ground that the judge erred in her instruction on assisted suicide defense to murder.
In Minor, the defendant had been charged with murdering Jeffrey Locker, a motivational speaker who was deeply in debt and who was found dead in his car from multiple stab wounds. The defendant claimed Locker had enlisted his aid to make his suicide look like a murder so his family could recover his recently purchased $12 million of life insurance. The defendant allegedly held a knife on the steering wheel as Locker leaned forward into it. When the defendant left the car, Locker was still alive. Based on expert testimony that the wounds were inconsistent with the defendant’s story, the prosecution claimed that the defendant had murdered the victim.
In her instructions, the trial judge attempted to explain the affirmative defense of assisted suicide by stating that while murder was an “active,” assisted suicide was not. When the jury asked for additional clarification the judge, over objection, responded with further instructions that failed to clarify the distinction. The First Department reversed the conviction. It held that neither the term “active” nor its opposite, “passive” are present in the statute and that the instructions were confusing and misleading.