The New York Times reported yesterday (here) that Roger Logan, 53, has been exonerated and released from prison as a result of the ongoing probe of 90 murder cases by a conviction review unit under the direction of Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson. Logan—the seventh man to be released since Thompson took office on January 1, 2014—had steadfastly maintained his innocence during the 17 years he served in prison following his conviction and sentence of 25 years to life.
Logan had been convicted of the 1997 shooting of Sherwin Gibbons, who was killed in the vestibule of a Bedford-Stuyvesant building.
The Conviction Integrity Unit is looking at all 57 murder convictions involving former detective, Louis Scarcella, whose unorthodox tactics and unraveling convictions have prompted serious scrutiny, as well as other convictions stemming especially from the 1980s and 1990s, a time of rampant crime and violence.
The New York Times summary of the cases overturned thus far during the term of District Attorney Thompson and those still marked for review indicates that the remaining cases may be more challenging:
“In the six cases that Mr. Thompson’s office has vacated so far, the unit found fairly solid evidence showing the men should not have been convicted. Two were overturned based on DNA evidence; three because the testimony of a crack-addicted witness who was frequently used by Mr. Scarcella was discredited; and the sixth was based on a receipt and police reports showing that the defendant was, as he had always claimed, in Florida during the murder.
“The bulk of the remaining cases, generally speaking, are more challenging. Proof of actual innocence is rare, but in many cases, the unit is finding that the police work — or the trial — was so badly tangled that the defendant would not have been convicted today.”
In Logan’s case, conviction integrity investigators discovered that a key witness — who said that she had observed Logan in the vacinity during the day of the crime and as the shooter — was under police custody herself during some of the time that she allegedly witnessed Logan. Details of her testimony came under question, as did other elements of the crime theory.
The conviction integrity unit put together a case report reviewed by three panel members. Again from The New York Times article, these included:
Bernard W. Nussbaum, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Jennifer G. Rodgers, a former senior New York City prosecutor who is now a professor at Columbia University; and Gary S. Villanueva, a former Brooklyn homicide prosecutor who is now a defense lawyer.
The panel members recommended that Logan be released. The district attorney’s office filed a motion to vacate Logan’s conviction, and yesterday, after a judge granted the motion, Logan was released into the arms of his overjoyed daughter and granddaughter.