In a significant turn of events, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has cleared two men of murder convictions stemming from cases in New York City during the 1990s. Wayne Gardine, 49, and Jabar Walker, 49, had been serving life sentences for separate murder charges. The exoneration follows a thorough investigation that uncovered flaws in witness testimonies and inadequate legal representation.
Background of “Dirty 30” Scandal
Both cases were linked to the 30th Precinct, infamously labelled the “Dirty 30” after a scandalous revelation in the early 1990s. An independent commission exposed widespread corruption, marking it as the biggest police scandal in New York City history.
Jabar Walker’s Release
Jabar Walker, convicted in 1998 of a double murder, was released from prison on Monday after serving two consecutive terms ranging from 25 years to life. An 11-month joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the Innocence Project revealed that Walker’s case relied on untrustworthy and recanted testimony. One witness, prior to sentencing, withdrew his testimony, claiming he felt pressured to implicate Walker. Another witness testified during the trial that he had not seen Walker at the crime scene.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr., stated that Walker did not benefit from effective legal representation, a foundational aspect of the justice system. The collaboration with the Innocence Project aimed to rectify the injustice and clear Walker’s name.
Wayne Gardine’s Parole and Detention
Wayne Gardine, convicted in 1996 of a murder, had been granted parole in 2022 after nearly three decades behind bars. However, he faced immediate detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to his potential deportation to Jamaica. Recent investigations, supported by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, revealed doubts about the credibility of the only witness called during Gardine’s trial.
Gardine’s mother, Grace Davis, expressed the emotional toll on her family, emphasizing the need for her son’s immediate release and the cessation of the deportation process.
Post-Conviction Justice Unit’s Role
The Manhattan District Attorney’s post-conviction justice unit, established by Bragg, played a crucial role in investigating and overturning the convictions of Walker and Gardine. The unit, in collaboration with defense attorneys, examined closed cases to ensure the reliability of convictions and determine the need for overturning or modification.
Call for Immediate Freedom
The Legal Aid Society of New York has called for Wayne Gardine’s immediate freedom, emphasizing the injustice of his nearly thirty-year imprisonment. The collaborative and transparent joint-reinvestigation led by the post-conviction justice unit serves as a model for addressing innocence claims in a non-adversarial process, according to Vanessa Potkin, Director of Special Litigation for the Innocence Project.