Davis Polk, working with the Legal Aid Society, secured the release of pro bono client Carlos Weeks, who served 26 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Mr. Weeks had steadfastly maintained his innocence in the case, which arose out of a July 1993 shooting in the Tompkins Housing Projects in Brooklyn that left one victim dead and a young child injured.
At a hearing on October 3, 2019, in the New York State Supreme Court for Kings County, Justice Dineen Riviezzo vacated Mr. Weeks’s conviction, dismissed the original indictment and ordered his immediate release.
At his trial in 1995, the only evidence connecting Mr. Weeks to the shooting was the purported eyewitness testimony of two sisters. At trial, they claimed to have looked out of a twelfth-floor apartment window and identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter. They claimed they ran down the stairs, but their respective testimonies as to what they saw when they reached street level was in conflict.
Davis Polk and Legal Aid began their investigation of the case in early 2015 after reviewing the trial testimony and meeting with Mr. Weeks. Davis Polk and Legal Aid obtained police files, attorney’s files, and tracked down and interviewed potential witnesses. Through photographic evidence, Davis Polk and Legal Aid established that the sisters could not have seen what they claimed to have seen through the twelfth-floor window. In addition, the investigation revealed the sisters’ motivation for their false testimony, which stemmed from their desire to assist the son of one of the sisters in securing possible favorable treatment in connection with an unrelated arrest.
Davis Polk and Legal Aid also identified new alibi evidence placing Mr. Weeks in another location at the time of the shooting. And they located a key prosecution eyewitness, who had been expected to testify at trial, but was at the last minute not called. That witness has now confirmed that he would have testified that Mr. Weeks was not present during the shooting.
Davis Polk and Legal Aid presented the new evidence to the Kings County District Attorney Conviction Review Unit (“CRU”) in October 2017, and cooperated fully with its investigation, including making Mr. Weeks available for an interview. A June 2019 submission further laid out the basis for the vacatur of the conviction.
When the CRU confronted one of the sisters, she recanted her testimony, stating she had been under “too much pressure.” The other sister declined to speak with any of the investigators, except to claim to the CRU that she had no recollection of the underlying events.
The Davis Polk team included associates Craig T. Cagney and Jennifer M. Maloney, legal assistants Theresa Bruney and Mohamed Ali Ismail, and Special Counsel for Pro Bono Sharon Katz. Associate Patrick Moroney assisted in the early stages of the investigation.