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Carlos Weeks

Other Kings County CIU cases
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On July 6, 1993, a shoot-out erupted between two groups of men at the Tompkins Houses, a residential housing complex in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Eighteen-year-old Frank Davis was killed and 10-year-old Yolanda McDowell was wounded.

Ten days later, Marshall Taylor, was arrested on an unrelated charge. He told police that days after the shooting, 20-year-old Carlos Weeks approached him while he was pumping gas. Taylor said that Weeks admitted that he and two others fired the shots that killed Davis and wounded McDowell.

Less than an hour later, Taylor’s mother, Carmella Taylor, came to the police station and said that she saw Weeks firing a gun during the shooting. Carmella said she lived in a building adjacent to the scene of the shooting. Subsequently, Carmella’s sister, Lorraine Taylor, told police she was in her 12th floor apartment with Carmella and they heard shots. Lorraine said she ran down the 12 flights of stairs to look for their children who were playing outside and saw Weeks throw a gun into a car and drive away.

Both sisters identified Weeks in a lineup. Weeks was arrested on July 21, 1993 and charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

In February 1995, Weeks went to trial in Kings County Supreme Court. Marshall Taylor did not testify. Prior to the trial, he died by suicide while incarcerated. His photograph had been included in two photographic lineups that were prepared during the investigation of the shooting, although it was never clear whether he was considered a suspect.

After Marshall Taylor’s death, neither Taylor sister wanted to testify at Weeks’s trial. Carmella Taylor testified only after she was arrested pursuant to a material witness order. Carmella testified that she heard shots and looked out of the 12th floor window and saw Weeks firing a gun. She said she ran down the stairs and saw Weeks run into a building.

Lorraine Taylor came to court only after Carmella had been arrested. Lorraine testified that she saw Weeks from the 12th floor apartment window. She told the jury she ran down the stairs and saw Weeks toss a gun into a car and drive away.

One other witness testified that McDowell was struck in the face by a stray bullet. That witness was not on the scene when the shooting occurred, but he testified that he heard more than one type of gun being fired.

Among those who attended the trial was Duane Boone, who was Frankie Davis’s cousin. When Weeks saw him in the courtroom, he pointed Boone out to his defense attorney. Weeks said that he had been talking to Boone around the corner from the shooting at the time the shooting occurred. His attorney then spoke to the prosecutor about it, who in turn asked the victim’s family to speak to Boone. However, Boone feigned ignorance when asked by the victim’s family member if he had been with Weeks at the time of the shooting.

On February 28, 1995, the jury convicted Weeks of second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

At Weeks’s sentencing, he professed his innocence and noted that there was someone in the courtroom who could have exonerated him—Duane Boone. The judge then sentenced Weeks to 27 ½ years to life in prison.

In 2012, Elizabeth Felber, an attorney in the wrongful conviction unit of the Legal Aid Society of New York, as well as pro bono attorneys Craig Cagney and Sharon Katz from the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, began re-investigating the case. They learned Boone had since been murdered. The lawyers, however, found another witness who saw Boone and Weeks talking at the time the shots were fired.

In 2017, Weeks’s legal team submitted the case to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit for investigation. Investigators for the prosecution located Carmella and Lorraine Taylor. After repeated attempts to interview them were unsuccessful, Lorraine finally agreed to talk to an investigator. During the interview, she began to weep and admitted that she did not see the gunman’s face. She said, “There was so much pressure” to testify at the trial. She also said she had received threats that made her want to relocate, which she was promised she could do in exchange for her testimony. Carmella insisted she did not remember the shooting or that she testified about it at Weeks’s trial.

On October 2, 2019, Mark Hale, head of the Conviction Review Unit, appeared before Kings County Supreme Court Judge Dineen Riviezzo and asked that Weeks’s convictions be vacated and the charges dismissed.

Hale said that although the “CRU cannot play the 13th juror, we took the additional steps to re-interview the witnesses.” He said the prosecution had concluded that the testimony from Carmella and Lorraine Taylor was "reinvented with every retelling."

“What went wrong was the prosecutor at the time didn't properly scrutinize these witnesses for their reasons for coming forward to testify,” Hale said. “If it was properly scrutinized, these witnesses wouldn't have been put before a jury.”

Hale said the CRU had visited the apartment from which Carmella and Lorraine said they saw the shots. In a statement issued after the hearing, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “An examination of the 12th floor window suggested that it was likely that trees and the distance hindered the sisters’ view of the shooting, but whether they could see the shooter remained inconclusive because the height of trees may have increased in the past 26 years.”

At the same time, the CRU concluded that it “strains credulity that the shooter would still be fleeing the scene by the time the sisters finished running down 12 flights of stairs or that the person that (Weeks) spontaneously confessed to would be related to the only eyewitnesses to the crime.”

Judge Riviezzo granted the motion to vacate the convictions and dismissed the charges. “There's absolutely, absolutely, no words to give back the years Mr. Weeks served,” the judge declared. “Best of luck to you.”

Weeks was then released after more than 26 years of incarceration.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/9/2019
State:New York
County:Kings
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1993
Convicted:1995
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:27 1/2 to Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No