Legal Aid Files Motion to Exonerate Brooklyn Man for Wrongful 2004 Murder Conviction




The Legal Aid Society filed a Motion to Vacate The Conviction on behalf of James Davis today in Kings County Supreme Court based on newly discovered evidence and other constitutional claims. Davis has been in prison for 14 years as a result of a 2004 conviction for murder. In 2006, Davis was found guilty of murder for the shooting death of Blake Harper at a crowded party at Brooklyn Masonic Temple. There was no physical or forensic evidence connecting Davis, then 21 years old, to the crime. The case against him rested solely on disputed eyewitness identification testimony.

“Mr. Davis’s trial attorney never investigated the case; but when we were assigned to the appeal, we discovered exculpatory evidence that clearly vindicates our client.” said Susan Epstein, Staff Attorney with the Criminal Appeals Bureau at The Legal Aid Society. “This is yet another case of a mistaken identification that has robbed a man of 14 years of his life. We call on the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office to join us in this motion immediately, so that Mr. Davis’s nightmare can finally end.”

Davis’s Legal Aid attorneys discovered that a former girlfriend falsely told police that Davis had been involved in the shooting, and he became the only suspect. Three friends of the deceased identified him from a photo array and at a lineup.

When he was arrested, Davis told detectives that he had been at the party with his brother and some friends, but that he had gotten sick and left early after having had too much to drink. He spent the night with his then-girlfriend; and she testified on his behalf at his first trial, which resulted in a 11-to-1 vote to acquit. At Davis’s retrial, his then-girlfriend was not available to testify, and he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 18 years-to-life in prison. Since his conviction in 2006, Davis and his attorneys have located several new witnesses, all of whom say they were at the party and remember that Davis had gotten ill and left before the shooting took place. They thus fully corroborate the account that Davis had provided police from the outset. In addition, two of these men witnessed the shooting and identified the possible true perpetrator as a man they knew from the neighborhood. A mug shot of this man bears a striking resemblance to Davis. Davis’s alibi witness from his first trial said she stands by her alibi testimony.

The young woman who gave Davis’s name to the police passed away in 2013. Recently, her mother came forward to say that before she died, the young woman admitted that she had made up the accusation against Davis because she was angry at him for being involved with another woman.

Finally, two of the prosecution’s three original eyewitnesses have either wavered or retracted their testimony. The third eyewitness, the deceased’s brother-in-law, is dead.

In 2013, Davis’s attorneys contacted the Office of the Kings County District Attorney, which was then headed by Charles Hynes, to ask for a re-examination of Davis’s case. In 2014, Kenneth Thompson took over as District Attorney and formed a Conviction Review Unit (“CRU”). During his 32 months in office, Thompson oversaw the exoneration of 21 people who the CRU found were wrongfully convicted. Since Thompson’s death in October 2016, Eric Gonzalez has been the District Attorney. While DA Gonzalez has pledged to continue Ken Thompson’s legacy, the pace of exonerations has slowed dramatically. In 23 months under his oversight, only three exonerations have been announced.

Over the past five years, the CRU has interviewed all of Davis’s new witnesses; and Davis’s attorneys believe that the CRU completed their investigation more than a year ago. However, the Unit has failed to move forward. Frustrated by the delay, Davis’s attorneys have now filed papers to seek a Court review of the new evidence in his case. They continue to hope that the Conviction Review Unit will join in their motion to overturn Davis’s conviction.

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