Detective Louis Scarcella worked homicides in New York City as they soared to over 2,200 a year in 1990 and said he did “whatever I have to do within the law” to get confessions or cooperation.
A detective who smoked cigars, ran marathons, worked a side job at a Coney Island amusement park, and jokingly put “adventurer” on his business card built a reputation for closing cases. But in the past nine years, nearly 20 convictions have been tossed out after defendants accused the detective of lying.
The DA’s office has reviewed hundreds of cases involving Scarcella and agreed to exonerate over 30 people. In two other cases, prosecutors are fighting to restore convictions, but in many others, they have concluded that convictions should stand.
Prosecutors say Detective Stephen Chmil and his partner, Detective Louis Scarcella, played only a minor role in DeLeon’s case and that two eyewitnesses identified Eliseo DeLeon anew as the killer of victim Fausto Cordero 27 years later.
Eliseo DeLeon was just 18 years old when he was convicted for the murder and spent 24 years in prison before his conviction was overturned in 2019. Now the case is being retried.
Case paperwork shows that Scarcella accompanied Chmil and Baker to arrest DeLeon, but there’s a dispute over whether the detective participated in an interrogation that produced a confession documented in a few brief sentences. DeLeon says detectives made it up.
DeLeon’s lawyers don’t buy that Scarcella was a bit player and argue that the confession was fabricated and that the witness identifications were inaccurate and questionably obtained.
Scarcella and Chmil have spent years defending their investigations, saying they used legal techniques and that prosecutors signed off on every homicide arrest and vetted all the evidence.
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