A New York City man was released from prison after a quarter-century behind bars on Thursday after prosecutors asked to throw out his murder conviction.
"I feel great!" said Carlos Weeks, who is now 46, as he stood between his two attorneys in front of Brooklyn Supreme Court.
"There's absolutely, absolutely, no words to give back the years Mr. Weeks served," Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo said in vacating the conviction. "Best of luck to you."
Prosecutors with the Brooklyn District Attorney's Conviction Review Unit (CRU) reexamined the case and found that trial testimony did not add up or had been recanted. This will be the unit's 27th overturned conviction since it was revamped in 2014 under the leadership of the late District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson, who died while in office in 2016.
"An extensive investigation into this old case revealed that the two witnesses who identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter were not credible," said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in a statement issued before Weeks' release. "Accordingly, we cannot stand by this conviction and will release the defendant, who spent 26 years behind bars."
The killing happened during a shootout, and Davis, an innocent bystander, was leaving a building on Throop Avenue with a friend when gunmen opened fire, the New York Times reported at the time. A 10-year-old girl who was also caught in the crossfire was seriously injured.
According to the original investigation, a man named Marshall Taylor told authorities that, while he was in custody for an unrelated crime, Weeks confessed to him that he along with two other accomplices participated in the shooting in retaliation for an earlier robbery, prosecutors said.
A year after Weeks was indicted, Taylor committed suicide while incarcerated.
Taylor's mother and two sisters, meanwhile, told police that they saw Weeks from their 12th-floor apartment either firing a gun or throwing a gun inside a car and driving off, prosecutors said.
In court on Thursday, Assistant District Attorney and head of the CRU, Mark Hale, explained that while the "CRU cannot play the 13th juror, we took the additional steps to reinterview the witnesses." Investigators concluded that the testimony from Taylor's relatives were "reinvented with every retelling."
"What went wrong was the prosecutor at the time didn't properly scrutinize these witnesses for their reasons for coming forward to testify," said Hale. "If it was properly scrutinized these witnesses wouldn't have been put before a jury."
Weeks' appellate attorneys from Davis Polk LLC. and The Legal Aid Society referred his case to the CRU.
To date, the CRU has upheld 80 conviction and another 80 cases are pending review.