In 1997, Roger Logan was arrested for fatally shooting Sherwin Gibbons in a Brooklyn building. During the murder trial, prosecutors alleged that Logan shot Gibbons over a stolen gold necklace. The prosecution’s case relied heavily upon an eyewitness named Aisha Jones, who claimed that she saw Logan firing a gun into the Brooklyn building where Gibbons was found shot to death. The witness identified Logan as the murderer during his trial. However, after extensively reviewing the case, attorneys and detectives assigned to the Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit determined that the eyewitness’ testimony was unreliable and requested that Logan’s conviction be vacated. In June 2014, Logan was released after spending 17 years in prison.
According to lawyers and detectives who reviewed the case, Jones’ testimony was unreliable. On the day of the murder in July 1997, Jones claimed that she had seen Logan several times throughout the day. However, investigators from the review unit discovered that Jones, who has an extensive criminal record, spent the entire day in police custody. In addition, Jones changed her story from what she originally testified in court. In court, Jones stated that she ran to her apartment after she first saw Logan fire his gun, but she recently told investigators from the review unit that she stayed in the street the entire time while Logan fired his weapon. In addition, investigators spoke to other witnesses involved in the case. Two men admitted that they stole Logan’s gold chain and then gave it back to him. Prosecutors contended that Logan killed Gibbons over the gold necklace.
Headed by Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, the Brooklyn Conviction Review Unit is comprised of 10 assistant district attorneys and three detectives. An independent panel of three lawyers reviews the unit’s recommendations for each case. Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson then makes the final decision regarding each case that is reviewed. The unit is currently reviewing 90 murder convictions dating back to the high-crime era of the 1980s and 1990s; 57 of the 90 cases originally involved former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella, whose tactics in other cases have raised serious concerns and questions.
Including Logan’s exoneration, the unit has vacated seven convictions since the beginning of the year. Two cases were overturned due to DNA evidence; three convictions were overturned because Scarcella relied upon statements from a crack-addicted witness who has been deemed unreliable. Another conviction was vacated after a sales receipt and a police report revealed that the defendant was in Florida during the time of the murder. The review unit has upheld the convictions in 11 cases.
Thompson stated that he hopes that the unit’s work will “restore faith that people have in our criminal justice system.” According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 87 convictions were overturned last year nationwide.