FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Brooklyn District Attorney Moves to Vacate Murder Conviction
In Connection With 1993 Shootout Outside Housing Development
One of Two Sole Eyewitnesses Credibly Recanted and the Second – Her Sister –
Incredibly Claimed She Doesn’t Recall the Incident
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that following a thorough investigation by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU), he will move to vacate the murder and assault conviction against Carlos Weeks, 46, who has been incarcerated since 1993. The investigation found that the testimony from the only eyewitnesses who identified him as the person who fatally shot the male victim and wounded a 10-year-old girl cannot be credited. One of them credibly recanted her testimony and the other claimed she has no recollection of the incident.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “An extensive investigation into this old case revealed that the two witnesses who identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter were not credible. Accordingly, we cannot stand by this conviction and will release the defendant, who spent 26 years behind bars. I would like to thank the prosecutors from my Conviction Review Unit for their persistence in this case. Their sole mission is to investigate questionable convictions and they will continue this crucial work in an effort to correct every miscarriage of justice that happened in Brooklyn.”
Weeks will appear in court today at 2:15 p.m. before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo at 320 Jay Street, 15th floor.
The District Attorney said that on July 6, 1993, a shootout between two small groups of men broke out in front of a building in the Tompkins Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Frank Davis, 21, was fatally shot and a 10-year-old girl who was caught in the crossfire was seriously wounded. Police recovered shell casings from three different guns.
Ten days after the incident, a man named Marshall Taylor, who was arrested in East New York on an unrelated matter, told the authorities that in the prior week, the defendant approached him while he was pumping gas and confessed that he, with two accomplices, committed the fatal shooting in retaliation against a group that had robbed them.
Less than an hour after he made the statement, Marshall’s mother, Carmella Taylor, was brought to the precinct and stated that she lived in a building adjacent to the scene of the shooting and that she saw the defendant, who she knew from the building, firing a gun. Shortly thereafter, Carmella’s sister, Lorraine Taylor, also provided a statement, saying she was in the same 12th floor apartment with her sister, heard shots, ran downstairs with her sister (to look for their children who were playing outside) and saw the defendant throw a gun inside a car and drive off.
Both sisters identified the defendant in a lineup. In subsequent testimony, both stated that they saw the defendant shooting when they looked out of the 12th floor window and Carmella added that, after she ran down the stairs to the first floor, she saw the defendant run into the building. Other testimony indicated that three men were shooting at the victims with the deceased and his friend returning fire.
About a year after Weeks’ indictment on the charges, Marshall Taylor committed suicide while incarcerated. (CRU discovered that his picture appeared in two photo arrays that were prepared in connection with the homicide but it’s unclear if he was ever considered a suspect.) At the 1995 trial, both Taylor sisters initially refused to testify and did so only after material witness orders were issued.
The defendant was convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. He was sentenced to 27½ years to life in prison.
The CRU made repeated attempts to interview the Taylor sisters. Lorraine was initially reluctant to speak and, when reminded by investigators of her account, she was asked by her husband, who was present, if she saw that much of what transpired. Lorraine then teared up and said “no” and “there was so much pressure.” In subsequent interviews she admitted that she never saw the faces of any of the shooters and went to the precinct to help her nephew Marshall Taylor. She said that she felt pressured to testify at trial and was receiving threats that made her want to relocate – something that was promised in exchange for her testimony.
After multiple attempts by the CRU to speak with Carmella, she claimed that she did not remember the 1993 shooting or testifying about it – a claim CRU discredited as implausible. The defendant was also interviewed by CRU. He claimed that he and two friends were robbed at gun point by the deceased and the friend who was with him at the time of the shootout. He added that he wasn’t involved in the shooting and drove up to the scene after it ended. An examination of the 12th floor window suggested that it was likely that trees and the distance hindered the sisters’ view of the shooting, but whether they could see the shooter remained inconclusive because the height of trees may have increased in the past 26 years.
The CRU concluded that Lorraine’s recantation was credible and supported by the record: she was reluctant to testify at trial, both sisters were relocated after testifying, no other evidence corroborated their account and it strains credulity that the shooter would still be fleeing the scene by the time the sisters finished running down 12 flights of stairs or that the person the defendant spontaneously confessed to would be related to the only eyewitnesses to the crime. Accordingly, DA Gonzalez will move to vacate the conviction and dismiss the underlying indictment against Mr. Weeks.
To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit has resulted in 27 convictions being vacated. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 80 convictions are just and will not be recommended to be vacated. Approximately 80 cases are pending review.
This case was referred to CRU by Davis Polk LLC and The Legal Aid Society.
This case was investigated by Assistant District Attorney Michael Trabulsi, formerly of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, with the assistance of Bruce Alderman and Lori Glachman, also of CRU, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, Chief of the District Attorney’s Post-Conviction Justice Bureau, and the overall supervision of Tali Farhadian Weinstein, General Counsel.