In July 1996, a man was robbed at gunpoint on a street in Brooklyn, New York. The victim was shot, and suffered enormous blood loss, but survived. Immediately after the crime, he told police the robber was a black male wearing a lemon colored shirt. Eleven days after the crime, when the victim came out of a coma, he identified Derrick Bell, who had been his neighbor at a rooming house for over a year, as the robber. The victim testified against Bell at trial. The victim was heavily medicated at the time of the identification, and suffered from memory loss about the events of the crime, but Bell’s defense counsel asked no questions about his medical condition at that time, and did not call a medical expert to testify about the effects of the victim’s condition on his memory. In May 1997, a jury convicted Bell of armed robbery and felony assault, and he was sentenced to 12.5-to-25 years in prison.
After losing on direct appeal and in state post-conviction proceedings, Bell filed a federal habeas corpus petition with medical evidence that the victim’s identification could easily have been attacked based on his medical state at the time if his defense attorney had called a qualified medical expert. In August 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Bell’s conviction because of the ineffectiveness of his defense attorney.
- Stephanie Denzel