August 20, 2014

Jabbar Collins Settles

Jabbar Collins, a man wrongly convicted by former Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes's office in 1995 for a murder he did not commit, has finally obtained the justice he was seeking. Earlier this year, he settled his claims against the State of New York for $3 million for his unjust conviction and imprisonment, but proceeded with his federal civil rights claims. Yesterday, he reached an agreement with the City to resolve the federal lawsuit for an additional $10 million. It's an outstanding result for Collins and reflects excellent advocacy by his lead counsel, Joel Rudin. The litigation also has helped pave the way for other cases where people were railroaded by the KCDA.

The federal action contained a series of claims against various members of the NYPD, assistant district attorneys from the KCDA, and the City itself for being deliberately indifferent to police and prosecutorial misconduct. Meaning that Hynes knew that his office looked the other way when there was evidence that the police were withholding or fabricating evidence, or that assistant prosecutors were playing fast and loose with their obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence.

In 2013, United States District Judge Frederic Block ruled on a motion for summary judgment in Collins's case. While the Court dismissed the claims against the individual prosecutors under the doctrine of absolute immunity, it found sufficient evidence of Hynes's deliberate indifference to allow the claim to proceed.

As the NYLJ accurately notes today, the Collins case represented much of what was perceived to be wrong with Hynes's office. In fact, as discussed here and here, it illustrates an all too real tendency of Hynes's office to value convictions over the Constitution, to the point where far too many innocent people were convicted and imprisoned for us to acccept that these were outliers or unintended consequences of perfect storms. Rather, they were the inevitable by-product of an office that placed little value on its duty to do justice, to observe statutory and constitutional obligations in both spirit and substance, and looked instead at "winning" as the end goal.

Collins has stated that he hoped this litigation would vindicate his innocence, expose the shady practices of the KCDA's office, help drive Hynes from office, and provide a level of compensation that would signify the injuries that the KCDA cause Collins and his family. He has fully succeeded in all regards.

The decision, which sets out Collins's claims in detail, can be found here:

Jabbar Collins - Mem. and Order 2.15.13 by ml07751

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