At the direction of a new district attorney, Brooklyn prosecutors are dropping their challenge to a high-profile habeas corpus grant in a case that Eastern District Judge Nicholas Garaufis (See Profile) called “rotten from day one.”
Last year, Garaufis ordered the release of William Lopez, who had served 23 years in prison for a murder he insists he did not commit. Garaufis later blocked the possibility of retrial because prosecutors in the office of former District Attorney Charles Hynes did not take “concrete and substantial steps” to retry Lopez within a 60-day deadline.
Hynes’ office appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (NYLJ, Jan. 17, 2013; March 21, 2013).
But in March 26 court papers, District Attorney Kenneth Thompson moved for voluntary dismissal of the appeal.
With April 3 oral arguments approaching, the filing in Lopez v. Miller, 13-589 said, at Thompson’s request, that the office had “conducted a thorough re-evaluation of the facts of this case. As a result of that re-evaluation, the District Attorney’s office has concluded that there is a sufficient possibility that Lopez is not guilty of the crimes that are the subject of this habeas proceeding so as to render going forward with the consolidated appeal to this court contrary to the interest of justice.”
Throughout his campaign to unseat the veteran D.A., Thompson raised the issue of questionable prosecutions. During one debate, Thompson challenged Hynes on whether he would apologize to Lopez, who was in the audience. Hynes would not comment, as the case was on appeal (NYLJ, August 23, 2013). The circuit has not yet ruled on Thompson’s motion.
Richard Levitt of Levitt & Kaizer represented Lopez.
Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Leonard Joblove, chief of the office’s appeals bureau, appeared for the prosecution.