DA Gonzalez Moves To Vacate Murder Conviction From 1993 Shootout

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A 46-year old man, who has been incarcerated for murder since 1993 is expected to soon walk free this afternoon after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez yesterday announced that his Conviction Review Unit (CRU) will move to vacate the murder conviction.

Carlos Weeks, 46, was sentenced to 27 and a half years to life stemming from a July 6, 1993 shootout between two small groups of men in front of NYCHA’s Tompkins Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant that left Frank Davis, 21, fatally shot and a 10-year-old girl caught in the crossfire seriously wounded. Police recovered shell casings from three different guns.

Attorney Eric Gonzalez
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez

Ten days after the incident, a man named Marshall Taylor, who was arrested in East New York on an unrelated matter, told the authorities that in the prior week, the defendant approached him while he was pumping gas and confessed that he, with two accomplices, committed the fatal shooting in retaliation against a group that had robbed them.

Less than an hour after he made the statement, Marshall’s mother, Carmella Taylor, was brought to the precinct and stated that she lived in a building adjacent to the scene of the shooting and that she saw the defendant, who she knew from the building, firing a gun.

Shortly thereafter, Carmella’s sister, Lorraine Taylor, also provided a statement, saying she was in the same 12th floor apartment with her sister, heard shots, ran downstairs with her sister (to look for their children who were playing outside) and saw the defendant throw a gun inside a car and drive off.

Both sisters identified the defendant in a lineup. In subsequent testimony, both stated that they saw the defendant shooting when they looked out of the 12th-floor window and Carmella added that, after she ran down the stairs to the first floor, she saw the defendant run into the building. Other testimony indicated that three men were shooting at the victims with the deceased and his friend returning fire.

About a year after Weeks’ indictment on the charges, Marshall Taylor committed suicide while incarcerated. (CRU discovered that his picture appeared in two photo arrays that were prepared in connection with the homicide but it’s unclear if he was ever considered a suspect.) At the 1995 trial, both Taylor sisters initially refused to testify and did so only after material witness orders were issued.

The CRU made repeated attempts to interview the Taylor sisters. Lorraine was initially reluctant to speak and, when reminded by investigators of her account, she was asked by her husband, who was present, if she saw that much of what transpired. Lorraine then teared up and said “no” and “there was so much pressure.”

In subsequent interviews, she admitted that she never saw the faces of any of the shooters and went to the precinct to help her nephew Marshall Taylor. She said that she felt pressured to testify at trial and was receiving threats that made her want to relocate – something that was promised in exchange for her testimony.

After multiple attempts by the CRU to speak with Carmella, she claimed that she did not remember the 1993 shooting or testifying about it – a claim CRU discredited as implausible. The defendant was also interviewed by CRU. He claimed that he and two friends were robbed at gunpoint by the deceased and the friend who was with him at the time of the shootout. He added that he wasn’t involved in the shooting and drove up to the scene after it ended.

An examination of the 12th floor window suggested that it was likely that trees and the distance hindered the sisters’ view of the shooting, but whether they could see the shooter remained inconclusive because the height of trees may have increased in the past 26 years.

The CRU concluded that Lorraine’s recantation was credible and supported by the record: she was reluctant to testify at trial, both sisters were relocated after testifying, no other evidence corroborated their account and it strains credulity that the shooter would still be fleeing the scene by the time the sisters finished running down 12 flights of stairs or that the person the defendant spontaneously confessed to would be related to the only eyewitnesses to the crime.

“An extensive investigation into this old case revealed that the two witnesses who identified Mr. Weeks as the shooter were not credible. Accordingly, we cannot stand by this conviction and will release the defendant, who spent 26 years behind bars,” said Gonzalez.

“I would like to thank the prosecutors from my Conviction Review Unit for their persistence in this case. Their sole mission is to investigate questionable convictions and they will continue this crucial work in an effort to correct every miscarriage of justice that happened in Brooklyn,” he added.

To date, the work of the CRU has resulted in 27 convictions being vacated. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 80 convictions are just and will not be recommended to be vacated. Approximately 80 cases are pending review.