As Queens Man Is Exonerated After 'Monumental' Miscarriage of Justice By Michael Joseph on July 01, 2020

The case of Samuel Brownridge, who was exonerated after being wrongly convicted of murder and spending 25 years in prison, is the first case taken up by the Queens DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit to result in a recommendation that a conviction be reversed. The hearing, based on a New York Criminal Procedure Article 440 motion to vacate, was an extraordinary one at several levels.

Few veteran defense lawyers and judges believe, she said, that Brownridge’s case is one of the rare times that a prosecutor’s office has agreed to exoneration in a case in which no innocence-proving DNA evidence exists. Instead, in Brownridge’s case, the declaring of his “actual innocence” during the hearing, pursuant to his granted motion, was based entirely on factors such as misidentification by witnesses in the mid-1990s of the supposed murderer, withheld exculpatory Brady evidence by the Queens DA’s Office during the same time period such as the excluding of a key witness’ identification of another man as the murderer, and the rejection of Brownridge’s multiple alibi witnesses at trial because of technical errors made by his inexperienced, court-appointed attorney. This is the type of miscarriage of justice that results from the defense being kept in the dark about powerful exculpatory evidence, that if considered by a jury, would have surely resulted in an acquittal. 

After Katz was installed as Queens’ district attorney on Jan. 1, 2020, and her Conviction Integrity Unit was formed, the D.A.’s Office ultimately came to the position that Brownridge should be exonerated. It should be noted that it came, nearly a year after Brownridge was released from prison in March 2019, after having served the 25-year sentence

In listing the people and stages of the process that had failed Brownridge, the judge pointed to “police officers who investigated” and “somehow failed to disclose in the police report that the main witness ID’d another person”—“a person that we all know does not resemble you [Brownridge] in the slightest,” the judge noted—to a jury not being allowed to hear important evidence, to Brownridge’s then-defense lawyer “fail[ing] to properly present [at trial] your alibi” witnesses, to the later post-conviction motion process, to the federal review. “Mr. Brownridge,” the judge said, “the miscarriage of justice in your case was monumental,” and “the obvious injustice [of the case] delegitimizes our system of justice in the minds and the eyes of many communities.

Although no amount of money can truly make up for the time, experiences and relationships that you lost if you were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, initiating a claim against New York State for monetary compensation can assist you in being able to move forward from the injustice that you suffered.

Section 8-B of the Court of Claims Act allows individuals who can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, to recover for their damages against New York State. Claims for damages resulting from a wrongful conviction must be filed within two years of the pardon or dismissal of claims, however you must file a notice of intent to file a claim otherwise, you will be barred from doing so. This time limit is expecially unfair because to someone who was just released from prison for a crime they did not commit, the shock alone and processing of what just happened, along with the emotional shock of adjusting to life outside of prison can take more than 90 days. However, the system has rigid rules, so if you were exonerated for a crime that you did not commit, speak to a New York wrongful conviction lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights. .

If you were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned as a result, our New York trial lawyers are aggressive, tenacious and hardworking. Our team can act quickly to preserve your wrongful conviction compensation claim and see it through to conclusion so you get the compensation that you deserve.


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The Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

Law Office of Michael H. Joseph, PLLC

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