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Wrongfully Convicted NY Brothers Released, Paid $17M

— January 12, 2015
Wrongfully Convicted NYC
“Three half brothers were exonerated in two separate murder cases stemming from discredit homicide detective Louis Scarcella. Robert Hill (rear, white shirt), Alvena Jennette (left sun glasses) and the late Darryl Austin’s mother (whose conviction was overturned posthumously), Louise Austin (center) leave Brooklyn Supreme Court in May.” (Photo Credit and Caption from New York Daily News, 1/12/15)

Today, the New York Daily News reported two wrongfully convicted brothers will be released from prison and paid $17 million for their trouble.  The settlement will be shared with a third brother, who died in captivity.  Unfortunately, the brothers will be unable to purchase lost time with their settlement.  Since the article is short, I’ve included it in its entirety below.

“Two Brooklyn brothers who spent decades in prison for murders they didn’t commit will reportedly received a $17 million settlement from the city.

Half-brothers Robert Hill and Alvena Jennette, both 53, were freed in May after their convictions were vacated due to the questionable investigative tactics of retired NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella.

A half-brother of Hill and Jennette, Daryl Austin, died in prison. City Controller Scott Stringer said the settlement, first reported by The New York Times, will include the family of Austin, whose murder conviction was also tossed out.”

The Kansas City Star noted that “Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin spent a combined total of 60 years in prison before their convictions were vacated”.

I am glad these men were released, and I am glad in an unqualified way.  Wrongful conviction can happen in even the most righteous justice system, and it’s hard to untangle whether a wrongful conviction case was due to simple mistake or an emblem of a greater problem.  Maybe all simple mistakes are emblematic of some larger, systemic failure, but I don’t buy that.  I don’t know the details of this particular case, so I won’t use this platform to judge the DA or the defense attorney, nor the judge or jury.

And, I will not discuss how much more frequently black men are wrongfully convicted than their white counterparts.  I will not discuss the 24-hour pipeline sending poor students from broken schools to prison for petty crimes and long sentences.  I will not discuss racist officials or racist mandatory minimum sentences, and I will make no mention of job-hungry states preying on the lives of minorities to fill prison cells and the pockets of private penitentiaries.

Today, we can be happy for Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette, and the family of Daryl Austin, without using their suffering as leverage for political discussion, at least I will.

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