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Gerard Domond

Other Kings County, New York exonerations
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A few minutes after 2 a.m. on March 23, 1987, a man who identified himself only as “Thompson” brought 20-year-old Patrick “Bunny” Hinkson to the emergency room of St. Mary’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. Hinkson had been shot once in the head and he did not survive. The man said Hinkson had been shot in the parking lot of a nightclub called People Love 1 at 1055 Washington Avenue.

By the time police arrived at 2:35 a.m., the man had left. Hinkson was in critical condition and died about an hour later without regaining consciousness.

Detectives and crime scene investigators were sent to the night club. After searching around the club, including a gas station, a dirt parking lot and an empty lot, nothing was found that suggested a shooting had occurred.

Three days later, on March 26, 1987, Francois Pierre walked into the 77th Precinct police station in Brooklyn and said that he was present when Hinkson was killed. Pierre said that Gerard Domond shot Hinkson after they argued about $7,000 that Hinkson owed Domond for drugs. Domond punched Hinkson in the mouth. When one of their group, a man named Yves, intervened, Hinkson said, “Let’s take it outside.”

Pierre said that there were more than a dozen people who went outside to the corner near the gas station. He said that Domond went to his car, opened the trunk, and walked back holding his hand inside his jacket. When Hinkson said, “You don’t scare me,” Domond, standing about six feet away, pulled out a revolver and shot Hinkson in the forehead. Pierre said Domond fired a second shot, but it went into the sky because Yves struck Domond’s arm. Pierre said he and the others ran back into the club and he did not know what happened to Hinkson.

By this time, detectives had gone to 68 Kenilworth Place, in Brooklyn, where Hinkson sometimes stayed. Detective Carlos Gonzalez would later say he collected blood from the steps of the building and a police report listed the Kenilworth address as the place of Hinkson’s murder. Gonzalez later admitted he threw the blood evidence away before it could be analyzed, claiming he had heard that it came from a cut on some “girl’s hand.” Gonzalez in later years would achieve some notoriety for obtaining a false confession from Antron McCray, one of the Central Park Five, and from Johnny Hincapie, both of whom were exonerated of crimes in New York City.

On March 29, 1987, Pierre viewed a photographic lineup and identified Domond, who turned 25 on March 24—the day after the shooting—as the man who shot Hinkson. On March 31, police arrested Domond. He was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

No witnesses could be found to corroborate Pierre’s account of the shooting. At the time, Pierre was facing drug, gun possession, and robbery charges. Pierre said he was HIV positive and wanted leniency on his charges because he didn’t want to die in prison.

Pierre also wanted the return of a gold chain that he claimed Domond took from him. Pierre said he had gone to police after finding Domond with Pierre’s girlfriend.

There were some obvious problems with Pierre’s version beyond the lack of evidence that a shooting occurred outside the club. The autopsy showed that Hinkson had been shot in the left side of his head with the slug exiting on the right side. Pierre claimed Hinkson was shot in the forehead—at one pointing saying he was shot between the eyes.

On April 18, 1989, the prosecutor in Domond’s case entered into a written cooperation agreement with Pierre. In return for his testimony against Domond, Pierre was to plead guilty to fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and receive a sentence of six months in jail and five years of probation. Pierre pled guilty on April 20, 1989. Pierre reached an oral agreement with the prosecutor—which was never disclosed to Domond’s defense—that if he pled guilty to the robbery charge, the sentence would not be greater than the sentence in the narcotics case.

On April 25, 1989, Domond went to trial in Kings County Supreme Court. The prosecution contended that Domond was a drug dealer and that Pierre worked for him. The prosecutor told the jury in opening statements that Pierre decided to cooperate after Domond and Pierre had a confrontation during which both brandished weapons at each other and Pierre saw Hickson killed. The prosecutor outlined how Pierre had pled guilty to the drug charge and noted that Pierre had spent the last four or five months in a Brooklyn hospital suffering from the AIDS virus, though Pierre did not in fact have AIDS. The prosecutor said Pierre “has the virus and he wanted to get out and that’s the deal we made him.”

The defense contended that Domond was in Georgia at the time of the crime attending a religious revival with several other people.

Pierre testified that he provided security for Domond’s crack-dealing operation and that Hinkson sold drugs for Domond. At the time of the murder, Hinkson owed Domond $7,000 for drugs that Domond had given him to sell.

Pierre told the jury that he went to the club with his bodyguard, Carl, and a friend named Gary. Domond, Hinkson and Yves—who also sold drugs for Domond—were already there. For the first time, Pierre said that Hickson attempted to give Domond $2,000, but Domond tossed it in the air because he was owed $7,000. Pierre said there was a scramble by people to pick up the money and that he pocketed $300.

Pierre said that Hickson punched Domond—contradicting his earlier statement that Domond punched Hickson. After Yves broke up the fight, Pierre said they and about a dozen others went outside. Pierre said that Domond went to his car and returned with his hand under his jacket. He said that Hickson said, “You’re going to shoot me—don’t scare me, shoot me.” Pierre said Domond drew a nine-millimeter gun (he previously said it was a revolver) and shot Hickson in the forehead. He said Hickson fell backward onto the front bumper of a car.

Pierre said he, Yves, and Domond fled in Domond’s car—although he previously said he went back into the club. Pierre said that after Domond dropped him off at his drug-dealing spot, he got a call from a man he knew as Dred who had been in the club. Dred said he took Hickson to the hospital and that Hickson died.

Pierre said that at about 5 p.m. on March 26, he went to see his girlfriend, Shirley, and found Domond there. Pierre told the jury that Domond “tried to screw my girlfriend.” He said Domond drew a .38-caliber revolver and Pierre pulled out his 25-shot Uzi. At that point, Pierre said, they backed off and Domond left.

Pierre said he went to police and implicated Domond at 8 p.m. that night. During cross-examination, Pierre admitted that he told police he would not cooperate in the investigation unless they helped him retrieve his gold chain. He also said he had served his six months on the narcotics charge in the Kings County Hospital and was no longer in custody.

Pierre contradicted himself on the witness stand. During questioning by the prosecutor, Pierre said Hinkson fell between three or four cars. During cross-examination, he said Hinkson fell on the hood of a car.

Detectives testified they were unable to locate the man who brought Hinkson to the hospital. No other witnesses to the shooting testified for the prosecution. A detective admitted he had located Yves, but Yves was not called to testify.

Fitzroy Taylor, a security guard at the nightclub, testified that there were about 300 people in the club on the night of the crime. He said Domond was a regular attendee, but he did not see him there that night. Taylor said that he did not hear any gunshots, but conceded that the music was loud and there were no windows facing the parking lot where Pierre said the shooting occurred.

Several witnesses testified that they were in Georgia with Domond on the day of the murder, including his mother-in-law, Blanche Moore, and his then-fiancé, Tracy, whom he married in May 1987.

Moore testified that 15 people traveled from New York in her van to Donalsonville, Georgia for a religious revival. They left on March 21, arrived on March 22, and stayed at the Rufus motel for four nights, although she provided registration cards for only the nights of March 22 and 23. None had Domond’s name, but she explained that while only one person registered for each room, two people stayed in each room.

Seventy-six-year-old Willie McDonald testified that he shared a room with Domond at the hotel for three or four nights and that the room was rented in his name.

Moore, McDonald, and other witnesses testified that they celebrated Domond’s 25th birthday on March 24. Domond’s then-fiancé, Tracy, testified that she purchased multiple birthday cards for Domond and that everyone on the trip had signed them. The cards were presented in evidence. There were no photographs of the party.

Moore, as well as two other witnesses, also testified that they returned on March 27—four days after the shooting. Moore said she drove Domond to meet with his parole officer. But Moore was mistaken about the date of return. In fact, she and the group returned in time for Domond to attend a hearing with his parole officer on March 25. Moore had actually testified at a subsequent parole hearing that they returned on the 25th. However, Domond’s defense lawyer failed to clarify the mistake by introducing testimony from the prior hearing.

As a result, the prosecution then called Domond’s parole officer, Joseph Cretella, as a rebuttal witness. Cretella testified that he met with Domond on March 25. The prosecutor contended Cretella’s testimony showed that the alibi witnesses were not credible.

On May 3, 1989, the jury convicted Domond of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. On May 30, 1989, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

In May 1993, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, upheld the convictions. In February 1998, Domond filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petition was denied in April 1999.

Domond appeared before the New York State Board of Parole in May 2013. At this hearing, he admitted committing the murder. Parole was denied. He appeared a second time in May 2015, during which he said his admission was false and said he was innocent of the murder. Domond apologized and said he made the false admission because he wanted to be released to help his ailing mother. Parole was again denied.

In August 24, 2016, Domond appeared again before the parole board. He maintained his innocence and was granted parole. He was released on October 12, 2016.

Meanwhile in July and August, Domond’s attorney, Ronald Kuby, sent two letters to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit asking that Domond’s case be reviewed. The letters were the result of an extensive review of the trial transcript and pleadings by then-intern Rhiya Trivedi. By 2020, Trivedi was an associate at Kuby’s law firm.

“Please take a second look at Mr. Domond’s file,” Kuby wrote. He emphasized the reports putting the location of the shooting at 68 Kenilworth Place instead of the night club, the untested and destroyed blood evidence, Pierre’s “highly-motivated and uncorroborated testimony, and the monumental defense screw-up which undid the defense case and helped the prosecution.”

Kuby noted that one of the jurors actually worked in the parole office and knew Cretella, Domond’s parole officer. “No one knew until after the verdict,” Kuby said. “She told the judge in chambers and on the record that she and other jurors discussed Mr. Domond’s need for a parole officer during deliberations. She told the judge that defense counsel’s failure to cross-examine…Cretella made his testimony more credible.”

“Consider it another doll in this Matryoshka mess,” Kuby wrote. “Three alibi witnesses mischaracterize[d] their return date, nested within a failure to rehabilitate, nested within Officer Cretella’s rebuttal testimony, nested within the [juror’s] personal knowledge of Cretella. Instead of a four-piece doll set, however, Mr. Domond got 25 to life.”

On October 30, 2020, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that Domond’s convictions were vacated and the charges were dismissed as a result of the Conviction Review Unit's investigation.

In a 24-page report, the CRU said that Pierre had been housed in a hospital psychiatric unit for patients with psychological and mental problems, not patients with the AIDS virus. The review concluded that based on the documentary evidence in the prosecution’s files and the opinions of two experts with knowledge of the unit where Pierre was hospitalized, that Pierre “could have had ‘a very serious mental disorder’ just days before he signed his cooperation agreement and testified at trial.”

“The prosecutor knew that [Pierre] was in a psychiatric ward…but did not disclose this information or investigate it,” the report said. Domond’s defense was denied the opportunity to impeach Pierre, who provided “the only evidence of guilt.”

The report said that the prosecutor not only knew that Pierre was in a psychiatric unit, but also said that Pierre had the AIDS virus, even though the prosecutor had a note in his trial file saying it was “questionable” whether Pierre actually had the virus.

The report also said the CRU was “troubled by the prosecution’s failure to disclose to the jury that the cooperation agreement included an unwritten understanding” regarding Pierre’s robbery charge.

The report concluded that Domond “was not afforded a fair trial.” Pierre’s uncorroborated testimony was the sole evidence and the prosecutor failed to disclose that Pierre was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for perhaps several months prior to the trial. Pierre, the report noted, had since died. “[T]here is no way to correct the error, or determine the extent of the error, to ensure a fair retrial,” the report said. “Accordingly, [the] CRU recommends that the defendant’s judgment of conviction be vacated and the indictment dismissed.”

Gonzalez said the conviction was the 29th to be vacated and dismissed following an investigation by the Conviction Review Unit.

Following the hearing during which the charges were dismissed, Kuby declared, “After more than three decades of being branded a convicted murderer, Gerard Domond finally goes home to his family as a truly free man.” He added, “His mother’s greatest fear was that she would not live to see this day. It was joyful beyond words to see her there in the courtroom when the charges were dismissed.”

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/12/2020
Last Updated: 11/12/2020
State:New York
County:Kings
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1987
Convicted:1989
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:25 to life
Race/Ethnicity:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No