3 men will be exonerated in the murder of a token kiosk employee in 1995

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Three men convicted of the 1995 murder of a token booth employee will be cleared of all charges, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced Friday morning.

Following a reinvestigation of the case by the Conviction Review Unit, Gonzalez said his office found problematic identifications and false and contradictory confessions, among other “serious problems” with the case. charge against the men – who were teenagers at the time of their conviction.

“The horrific murder of Harry Kaufman shocked our town and devastated a loving family, but the findings of a years-long, exhaustive reinvestigation of this case leave us unable to defend the convictions of those charged,” Gonzalez said in a statement. . “Above all, my obligation is to deliver justice, and because of the serious problems with the evidence on which these convictions are based, we must act to overturn them and recognize the harm done to these men by this failure of our system.”

James Irons, Thomas Malik and Vincent Ellerbe – each sentenced to 25 years to life in prison – were charged with pouring gasoline into a Brooklyn token kiosk and setting it on fire while Harry Kaufman was at the inside. Malik and Irons remained incarcerated while Ellerbe was paroled in late 2020, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said.

Kaufman suffered severe burns to 80% of his body and died of his injuries two weeks after the firebombing.

More than 25 years later, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office says it can no longer honor the convictions.

“Among many reasons are the problematic circumstances of the identifications, the myriad factual contradictions between the confessions and the evidence recovered from the scene, and the material contradictions between the confessions themselves,” a press release from the prosecutor’s office said. Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office says the review found that lead detectives Stephen Chmil and Louis Scarcella provided “key details” to Irons, who was 18 at the time by showing him photographic evidence from the scene of the crime that included a gun and “describing or showing” a photograph of the gas can, before Irons said anything “significant” about the two items.

“These details were used to argue at trial that the confessions were so detailed that the jury could rely on them,” the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said in a statement.

The Detectives’ Endowment Association said it “supports the work” of Chmil and Scarcella.

“This solid case has also been reviewed by police supervisors, district attorneys, and then a jury,” DEA chief Paul DiGiacomo said in a statement. “Many people have pushed the case forward. This is nothing more than a costly ambulance chase and a ridiculous attempt to smear the names and reputations of our members – and exonerate the horribly guilty of this case. disturbing.

The defendants will appear in court Friday at 2:15 p.m. before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic.

To date, the Conviction Review Unit has overturned 33 convictions since 2014. Currently, the CRU has around 50 investigations open.

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