After three years of litigation, Jabbar Collins, a man who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, has reached a $10 million settlement with New York City.
Mr. Collins had been convicted of the 1994 killing of an Orthodox rabbi. He was released from prison in 2010, when a federal judge vacated his conviction and criticized the district attorney’s office for its handling of Mr. Collins’s trial.
The settlement is notable because it exposed questionable policies under the former Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes. Along the way, Mr. Collins’s lawyer, Joel B. Rudin, deposed Mr. Hynes and his top assistants, providing a rare glimpse into how a powerful district attorney ran his office.
Among the things Mr. Rudin accused the office of, after depositions of top aides, were detaining reluctant witnesses in hotel rooms until they agreed to testify, and advising his lawyers not to take notes when prosecution witnesses gave inconsistent statements, so as to avoid potentially exculpatory evidence. The city’s lawyers have challenged these claims.
The settlement is also notable for its size: Mr. Collins will receive about $667,000 per year served, a little less than the five men exonerated in the Central Park jogger case, who settled with the city earlier this summer for about $1 million for each year in prison. [eap_ad_1] The case was scheduled to go to trial in October.
Mr. Collins, 42, began fighting his conviction while at Green Haven State Prison, tracking down witnesses who had testified against him and filing Freedom of Information Law requests. After Mr. Rudin joined the case, a 2010 hearing was held in Federal District Court in Brooklyn over Mr. Collins’s attempt to vacate his conviction. One witness who testified then said he had been threatened by a top prosecutor. At that hearing, the district attorney’s office agreed to vacate the murder conviction and not to retry Mr. Collins.
The wrongful-conviction settlement is one of several the city has settled this year, including a $6.4 million settlement for David Ranta, a man who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. The city is facing several more such lawsuits as erroneous convictions from the crime-ridden 1980s and 1990s continue to be vacated.
In July, Mr. Collins settled with the state under the unjust conviction act for $3 million.
Mr. Collins said in a statement that his goals were to “expose the illegal practices of District Attorney Hynes and to help drive him from office,” to “obtain personal vindication and to demonstrate my innocence,” and to receive compensation to balance the years in prison and the harm done to him and his family.
Mr. Rudin said, “Ironically, the revelations in Jabbar Collins’ groundbreaking lawsuit of pervasive misconduct in Brooklyn led to more cases being overturned, but had the effect of making settlement of his lawsuit harder.” (NY Times)