Opinions

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15-CV-5174

DaCosta v. Tranchina 
Senior United States District Judge Jack B. Weinstein issued an opinion today, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, denying summary judgment in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case where an eyewitness identification of dubious value was the sole evidence linking an accused person to the commission of a robbery.  The case seeks compensation from a police officer of the City of New York.  It rests principally on two rulings:  the first allowed relation back to defeat a statute of limitations defense where the City of New York through its attorney, an assistant Corporation Counsel of the City, failed to promptly inform Maxie DaCosta that he had named the wrong police officer as a defendant.  See DaCosta v. City of New York, No. 15-CV-5174, 2017 WL 5176409, -- F. Supp. 3d -- (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 8, 2017).  
 
Today’s memorandum and order addressed the failure of a Detective and an Assistant District Attorney to bring to the grand jury’s attention the shaky grounds of the key witness’ identification supporting the indictment of DaCosta.  The court concluded that based on this failure, a civil jury could find that the Assistant District Attorney and Detective colluded to mislead the grand jury with respect to the identification.
 
“Ethical responsibilities of municipal corporation counsel and district attorneys to treat opponents fairly,” the court wrote, “is essential if we are to avoid the perversion of justice—civil and criminal.”  See, e.g., The Innocence Project, Featured Cases, https://www.innocenceproject.org/all-cases (last visited Dec. 1, 2017) (351 cases of individuals exonerated by DNA evidence; many of the cases include misidentifications).
 

16-CR-323

United States of America v. Tyshawn Rivera, et al.
Senior United States District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein today issued a sentencing opinion covering three criminals—all adolescents—and members of dangerous street gangs, who broke into a home, brandished firearms, terrorized young children and adults and stole money and other valuables.  
This combined memorandum explains why heavy incapacitory sentences were imposed:  
 
Statutorily mandated incapacitory sentences are usually unnecessary to increase public safety, or prevent recidivism; they place a tremendous financial burden on society through excessive incarceration.  See United States v. Dossie, 851 F. Supp. 2d 478, 478 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (“[T]oo many . . . defendants . . . ‘lose their claim to a future’—to borrow a phrase from Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.—because lengthy mandatory prison terms sweep reasonable, innovative, and promising alternatives to incarceration off the table at sentencing.”).  
The comparatively lengthy sentences in this case are made necessary by mandatory minimums, but also by the finding that the available alternatives to incarceration or diversion programs are either insufficient or unavailable for violent defendants, like the present ones who have been trapped in a gang culture, and condemned to a life of poverty and probable crime. 
 
The serious problem in dealing with members of street gangs, and the modern focus on incapacitory sentencing, is explained with extensive citation of academic and other research.