At 9 p.m. on November 14, 1998, 29-year-old Jacqueline Doggett was walking home after grocery shopping in Queens Village, New York when she was attacked. She heard footsteps behind her and then was slashed on both cheeks. She said two men tried to steal her purse, but fled when she held on.
Doggett was less than 100 feet from her home and when she yelled, her brother-in-law ran outside with his cellphone, dialing 911 as he ran. Doggett described her attackers as two black men, one of whom was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt.
Police flooded the area and about 20 minutes later, two 19-year-old black men, Lamar Palmer
and Ronald Dudley, were stopped by police about four blocks from the scene of the attack. Both denied involvement, but when police found a utility knife in Dudley’s pocket, they were detained. After Doggett was treated for her injuries, she identified both men as her attackers and both were charged.
Palmer and Dudley went on trial together in Queens County Supreme Court in 2000. Doggett, who required 29 stitches to close her wounds, identified them as her assailants.
Dudley and Palmer were convicted by a jury. Dudley was convicted of assault, attempted robbery and possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Palmer was convicted of assault and attempted robbery and was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
After the trial, Palmer’s brother, Dwayne Palmer, a New York City police officer, re-investigated the case and wrote a letter to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office saying that his examination of Lamar Palmer’s cell phone proved that he was on the telephone at the time of the attack and therefore was innocent.
The letter was forwarded to a unit in the District Attorney’s office then known as the “wrong man” unit. Investigators re-opened the case and in 2001, began questioning a 20-year-old street gang member named Victor Cadet because Dudley believed Cadet was involved in the slashing. When questioned by investigators, Cadet admitted that he and another man, Ryshawnn Stokes, committed the crime as part of an initiation into a gang known as the Bloods.
On March 29, 2001, Cadet testified at a hearing in Queens County Supreme Court where he admitted that he and Stokes were going to be “Blooded in” by slashing someone. He said he and Stokes were ordered by other gang members to walk the streets that night and slash the first person they saw.
“Ryshawnn got to her first and started slicing her,” Cadet testified. “I took one or two swipes and took off because I was already scared…She was screaming.”
Prior to going on trial, Dudley was out on bond and was accused of shooting Cadet. Cadet testified at the post-conviction hearing that Dudley had shot him “because he got locked up for something that I was involved in.”
After the testimony, Acting Supreme Court Judge Sherri Roman vacated Palmer and Dudley’s convictions. The prosecution immediately dismissed the charges. At the same time, prosecutors said Cadet would plead guilty and they would recommend probation for his cooperation. Stokes had not been located.
Palmer, who was released the day of the hearing, later filed a claim with the New York Court of Claims and settled for an undisclosed amount. Dudley, who remained incarcerated for shooting Cadet until he was paroled in 2002, did not seek compensation.
– Maurice Possley