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Brooklyn Man's Conviction Vacated After Serving 23 Years For Homicide

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office found that the identification procedure for the sole eyewitness was improper, and the probable culprit had implicated himself on two recordings.

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Thursday said he will move to vacate the conviction of a Brooklyn man who served 23 years in prison for homicide over a mistaken identity. 

Steven Carrington, 56, served over 23 years in prison and was released in 2018. The re-investigation by the Brooklyn DA's Conviction Review Unit (CRU) found that Carrington did not commit the crime, according to a news release.

The identification by the sole eyewitness, a customer at the East Flatbush lumberyard where a fatal robbery took place in 1995, was a stranger to the defendant and saw him fleetingly, was not tested for reliability and should never have been admitted at trial, according to the DA's office.

In addition, the CRU identified another person, who had implicated himself in a couple of surreptitious recordings, as the likely real accomplice. 

“A full investigation by my Conviction Review Unit concluded that this was a case of mistaken identity, where numerous red flags were ignored both before and after Mr. Carrington’s conviction," Gonzalez said. "This case exemplifies the pitfalls of one witness identifications and highlights the lengths our CRU will go to unearth the truth. Mr. Carrington has proclaimed his innocence from Day One and, while we cannot undo the decades he spent in prison, today we are able to substantiate his claim and give him back his good name.”

The District Attorney said that on January 2, 1995, at about 10:50am, a man named Shannon France, armed with a gun, entered Lumber Headquarters on Church Avenue in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. After a struggle, he twice shot an employee, Lloyd St. George Campbell, killing him. He robbed the store’s cash box and told a customer to leave. But that man was held up by an accomplice, later identified as Carrington, who took his Seiko gold-colored watch and a pinky ring, before the two robbers fled.   

The defendant was convicted, based on the testimony of the customer, of second-degree murder, for acting in concert with France, and of robbery and was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison. France was convicted of similar charges and sentenced to 25 years to life, he was released in 2021 and deported.

When the defendant was first interviewed by police, he stated that it was a case of mistaken identity. At trial, he put forth an alibi defense, claiming he was at home with his former girlfriend that morning, when he got a call from his wife that she had taken their young child to the hospital. She asked him to come there, and he did. The two women, the defendant, and his parents all testified to that, but prosecutors were able to rebut the claim by showing inconsistencies with the timeline they provided. 

In addition, the CRU was provided with two recordings of this alternative suspect. One was a mini cassette recording of a barely audible phone conversation from 1999 that was likely recorded by the defendant’s mother, with France on the line from prison. In it, the alternative suspect mentioned the lumberyard, said “we messed up,” and described the Seiko watch as not being made of gold and the small pinky ring – details that were not known to the public.

The second was a videotape from the same year, where that person was coaxed into sharing details about the incident and at some point said, “I don’t feel good. I always think about it,” and acknowledged that the wrong man was imprisoned for the crime.          

In a 2012 affidavit and in subsequent parole hearings, France took responsibility for his role and repeatedly stated the defendant was not involved. 

For these reasons, particularly the flawed identification procedure that was compounded by errors from the hearing judge, the prosecutor, and defense counsel, the CRU recommended that Carrington’s conviction should be vacated, and his indictment dismissed. Subsequently, the office investigated the possibility of charging the alternative suspect. Regrettably, legal hurdles unique to prosecuting a crime that occurred nearly three decades ago and for which another individual was convicted at trial render prosecution of the that suspect unviable.