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Sundhe Moses

Other Exonerations with Misconduct by Detective Scarcella
On August 27, 1995, three men, one dribbling a basketball, strolled up to a public housing project in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Two of the men opened fire with handguns, killing four-year-old Shamone Johnson, who was roller-skating. Four others were wounded: 8-year-old Alfonso Harris, 13-year-old Charrie Mitchell, 16-year-old Lamont Moore, and 19-year-old Alex Moore.

The two gunmen got into a car where a third man was waiting and sped off.

Police focused their investigation on two 19-year-old men—Terrence Morgan and Sundhe Moses. Both were charged with second-degree murder and four counts of assault, as well as criminal possession of a weapon. They went to trial separately in Kings County Supreme Court. Morgan was acquitted of all but the weapons charge. Moses, however, was convicted of all charges and sentenced to 24 1/3 years to life in prison.

Moses was suspected after Larry Cole who lived in the housing project where the shooting occurred, told police he had had heard on the street that Moses was involved. Cole had a history with Moses, who lived in the same housing project. In 1989, Cole tossed boiling water on the then-13-year-old Moses, causing burns on his abdomen and arm. Moses’s mother got an order of protection against Cole. Cole was also ordered to pay restitution, although he never did.

On August 30, 1995, three days after the shooting, New York police detective Robert Schulman showed a photographic array containing Moses’s photo to Sharron Ivory, a witness to the shooting. Schulman reported that Ivory identified Moses as one of the two gunmen. Schulman also reported that Octavia Moore, another eyewitness, selected Moses’s photograph as well.

On September 1, 1995, Schulman conducted a live lineup and reported that Octavia Moore identified Moses again. Moore’s brother, Lamont, who had been wounded, also viewed the lineup, but did not identify anyone. Schulman conducted a separate lineup that same day for Ivory and Alex Moore, who was Lamont’s brother and who had been wounded as well. Schulman said Ivory identified Moses, but Alex Moore identified a filler.

Detective Joseph Falcone said that by the end of the day, Moses had confessed to being one of the gunmen. As a result, Moses was charged with second-degree murder, four counts of assault, and criminal possession of a weapon.

Moses went to trial in April 1997. Octavia Moore testified that she identified the gunman as the person in the #1 spot in the lineup—which was Moses. However, when asked if she saw the gunman in court, she said she did not. She testified that that the person she identified was a light-skinned black man, unlike Moses, who had dark skin.

When Ivory testified, he also said he did not see the gunman in the courtroom.

Detective Falcone testified that he and his partner questioned Moses, who initially denied involvement in the shooting and claimed he was at the home of a friend, Raynelle Clinkscale, playing video games at the time of the shooting. Falcone testified that about 30 to 40 minutes into the interrogation, however, Moses admitted that he, Morgan, and third man he did not know went to the housing project and committed the crime. He said that he and Morgan fired the shots while the third man drove a getaway car.

Moses testified that at the time of his arrest, he was enrolled in community college. He said that he was at Raynelle’s house at the time of the crime. After he appeared in the lineups, he was taken to an interrogation room where, during the course of the day, at least five different detectives took turns questioning him.

Moses said that after repeatedly denying involvement, Detective Louis Scarcella struck him in the face. Other detectives held Moses down while Scarcella choked him. Moses said he was terrified because he did not know what else the detectives might do, so he ultimately admitted to the crime. He said that when he signed the statement—which he had not prepared—he tried to smudge his signature as a way of signaling that he was not acting voluntarily.

Detective Scarcella testified that his only involvement in the case was to arrest Moses on the orders of his superiors. He claimed he left the station around 11 a.m. that day and was not present when Moses signed the statement.

Clinkscale’s mother, Renee Flowers, testified that she came to her father’s apartment that day and found Clinkscale and Moses playing video games. She made dinner and they all left the apartment shortly after 10 p.m.—hours after the shooting had occurred.

On April 14, 1997, the jury convicted Moses and he was sentenced to 24 1/3 years to life in prison.

His appeals were unsuccessful. However, in May 2013, the Kings County District Attorney’s Office wrote to Sundhe that his conviction was under review by the office’s conviction review unit because of Scarcella’s involvement.

The exoneration in March 2013 of David Ranta for a Brooklyn murder triggered the investigation of Scarcella and about 70 murder cases connected to him. Evidence showed that Scarcella had coerced witnesses to falsely identify Ranta as the killer. After Ranta was released, The New York Times published an article accusing Scarcella, who retired in 1999, of misconduct in many investigations, including fabricating evidence, coercing witnesses, and concealing evidence of defendants’ innocence.

On December 3, 2013, Moses was released on parole, despite his refusal to admit involvement in the crime. Moses’s lawyers, Ron Kuby and Leah Busby, presented the evidence of Scarcella’s involvement as well as recantations by Octavia Moore and Sharron Ivory to the parole board.

Moore signed an affidavit saying that contrary to her testimony at trial, she never identified anyone positively. Rather, she had said one of the men in the lineup “looked familiar.” When she got to court, she realized that the man she said was familiar was not Moses.

Ivory also signed an affidavit saying that when he was shown the photographic lineup, he did not see either of the gunmen. However, the detective pointed to Moses and told him to pick him out. Ivory said that when he came to court, he refused to identify Moses because he felt he was no longer under the control of the police or prosecution.

Over the next two years, the prosecution’s review of other Scarcella cases resulted in the dismissal of murder convictions of Shabaka Shakur, Roger Logan, Derrick Hamilton, Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette, Darryl Austin, and Carlos Davis.

In July 2015, Kuby filed motion to vacate Moses’s convictions, citing the evidence of Scarcella’s misconduct as well as the recantations of Sharron Ivory and Octavia Moore. In addition, Terrence Morgan provided a sworn statement admitting that he was involved in the shooting and that Moses was not involved. Morgan said that the other gunman was a man he knew as “JuJu,” who had been murdered a few years after the shooting.

Morgan said the shooting was in retaliation for the murder of Benjamin “Killer Ben” O’Garro on August 17, 1995—10 days earlier. O’Garro was fatally shot standing at a pay phone in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn. According to Morgan, O’Garro was murdered because he stole jewelry from rapper Notorious B.I.G at an awards ceremony.

In 2016 and 2017, two more people convicted of murders in which Scarcella played a role—Vanessa Gathers and Jabbar Washington—were exonerated following re-investigations by the Kings County Conviction Review Unit.

In January 2018, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Dineen Riviezzo granted the motion for a new trial and vacated Moses’s convictions. The judge ruled that had the evidence of Scarcella’s misconduct been presented to the jury in Moses’s trial, he might have been acquitted.

Justice Riviezzo cited the ruling by another judge in the Shakur case that noted Scarcella “had a propensity to embellish or fabricate statements.”

On February 16, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the charges. Moses was the 11th Scarcella-related dismissal.

In May 2018, John Bunn and Rosean Hargrave became the 12th and 13th exonerations connected to Scarcella.

In July 2018, Shawn Williams became the 14th exoneration connected to Scarcella.

Moses received a $3.7 million settlement from the City of New York in 2019. He also filed a claim in the New York Court of Claims which he settled in 2020 for $3,500,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/23/2018
Last Updated: 4/24/2021
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1995
Sentence:24 1/3 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:19
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No