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Emmanuelle Cooper

Other Kings County, New York exonerations
Shortly after 10 p.m. on November 25, 1992, the night before Thanksgiving, 40-year-old Andres Baretto, a token booth clerk for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), was fatally shot during a robbery at the Euclid Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, New York.

Elaine Terry, an MTA clerk working with Baretto, told police that she and Baretto had just started their 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift when she saw Russell Bratton, another token booth clerk approaching. Bratton, who was wearing his MTA uniform, had worked a shift together with Terry in that token booth the previous day.

When Bratton said that he had left behind some insurance papers, Baretto unlocked the door. Bratton later said that as he entered, he fell to the floor after being pushed from behind by a man, who then struggled with Baretto. At that point, according to Bratton, a man outside of the booth said, “Move out of the way.” When the man moved to the side, the man outside the booth fired one shot from a pistol. Baretto was fatally shot in the chest.

The perpetrators then stole cash (later determined to be $349) from the booth and fled up the stairs. When police arrived and spotted Bratton leaning over Baretto’s body, they pushed him against the wall. Terry then said, “He works here. He’s a clerk,” and they left Bratton alone.

Police recovered a .380-caliber shell casing. Later, a police firearms analysist said that based on his examination, the slug removed from Baretto’s body and the shell casing were once a single unit. The only other item recovered was a woman’s yellow metal earring found on the platform.

Thomas Volino, who was in the subway station and witnessed the crime, told police he ran up the subway stairs and saw the two robbers get into a car with a third man and drive away. Volino told police the gunman was someone he knew from the neighborhood.

A few days later, a confidential informant implicated Emmanuelle Cooper and another man in the robbery. Based on that information, on November 28, 1992, police had Terry view a photo array containing Cooper’s photograph, but Terry failed to make an identification. Bratton viewed several photo arrays as well, but he also failed to make an identification.

On November 29, 1992, police were told by another informant that a man named Rico Sanchez had information about the murder.

According to police reports, detectives found Sanchez on December 4, 1992. He voluntarily accompanied them to the precinct, where he implicated Cooper. According to the police, Sanchez said he was on the street near the subway station and heard gunfire. He saw two men run out of the station and get into a car that sped off. Sanchez said that one of the men was Cooper, whom he knew from the neighborhood. Police said Sanchez picked Cooper out of a photographic lineup.

Police said that on December 15, 1992, Volino selected Cooper’s photograph after viewing a photographic lineup.

On January 11, 1993, Terry, Bratton and Volino were asked to view a live lineup that included Cooper. Volino, who had said he knew the shooter from the neighborhood, identified the person in position three, who was a filler. Cooper was in position five.

When Terry viewed the lineup, after about five minutes, she said, “It’s between number three and number five” and asked if number five (Cooper) could stand up. The detective in charge of the lineup then instructed all of the men in the lineup to individually stand up and walk forward and then walk back. Terry then identified Cooper. Bratton, after several minutes, said that Cooper most resembled the gunman.

Cooper was then arrested and charged with second-degree murder, second-degree robbery, and criminal possession of a weapon. No others were ever charged.

Cooper went to trial in October 1993 in Kings County Supreme Court. Bratton and Terry identified Cooper as the gunman. Bratton admitted during cross-examination that immediately after the crime, he told detectives that he would not be able to identify either of the two men. He also denied that officers told him prior to viewing the live lineup that a suspect had been identified and was in the lineup.

Sanchez identified Cooper as one of the two men who came out of the subway station and got into a getaway car.

Paul Battiste, an attorney who was representing Cooper at the time of the live lineups, testified that after Bratton selected Cooper, Bratton said “words to the effect [that] ‘out of the people there, he [Cooper] stands out the most.’”

The defense also called four alibi witnesses. Beverly Russell, a friend and neighbor of Cooper and his mother, testified that at about 10 p.m. she was preparing food for Thanksgiving dinner the next day. She heard a commotion outside and when she went to look, she saw several young people, including Cooper, playing cards. Russell said she spoke briefly to Cooper. Russell said that a few minutes later, two girls, whom she did not know, came by and said there had been a shooting at the subway station.

Tisha Williams testified she was playing cards with Cooper and others from about 9 p.m. on. She testified that Russell came by and spoke to Cooper. Williams also recalled that at about 10:30 p.m., two girls came into the building and said there had been a shooting at the subway station.

The two girls, Michelle Forde and Romella Rivers, testified that they were at the station waiting for Rivers’s boyfriend. Forde said she saw two men—neither of whom was Cooper—rush into the token booth and demand money. She said that as she and her friend ran up the stairs, she heard a gunshot. She said she didn’t see a gun, but said, “I guess the man didn’t give him the money and he shot him.”

Forde said that they ran to tell Rivers’s friends what happened and when they arrived, they saw Cooper riding a bicycle. Forde said Rivers introduced her to Cooper, who she had not met before. She said she dropped her gold earrings at the station and Cooper went with her to try to find them. She said they were unable to get close, however, because police had cordoned off the area around the station.

Rivers testified similarly to Forde and said that she had just begun speaking to her boyfriend when she heard a gunshot. She said she and Forde left and that later Forde and Cooper headed back to the station.

The prosecution, in closing argument, told the jury that the identifications by Bratton and Terry were solid and that Sanchez had no ulterior reason for picking Cooper and for cooperating with the prosecution.

On November 4, 1993, the jury convicted Cooper of second-degree murder and acquitted him of the other charges. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

His convictions were upheld on appeal. Cooper, acting without a lawyer, filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, but that was dismissed.

In July 2019, defense attorney Thomas Hoffman, assisted by paralegal Jabbar Collins, filed a motion seeking to vacate Cooper’s conviction. Collins had been exonerated of murder in 2010.

The motion said that Sanchez had recanted his identification prior to trial, but police never disclosed that recantation to Cooper’s defense attorney. In 2018, Hoffman and an investigator interviewed Sanchez, and he again recanted his identification. In fact, Sanchez said, he had been arrested on attempted murder and other charges—contrary to the police claim that he came in voluntarily to answer questions. He said that detectives told him he could be charged with felonies for an unrelated shooting in 1992. They then pointed out Cooper’s photograph and told him that if he identified Cooper, he would not be charged.

Sanchez said he implicated Cooper even though he never saw Cooper running from the subway station or get into a getaway car. That was a claim that “detectives fed to me,” Sanchez said. Sanchez was not charged with the unrelated shooting.

The motion for new trial said the prosecution had failed to disclose that Sanchez had been arrested and that information could have been used to impeach Sanchez’s identification of Cooper.

Prior to Cooper’s trial, Sanchez was convicted of drug possession. Sanchez said that when detectives came to get him from prison, he said he didn’t want to testify. “The detectives told me if I didn’t testify, I would be charged with contempt and that I would ‘get time,’” Sanchez told the defense team. He said the detectives threatened to resurrect the charges from the unrelated 1992 shooting. “I repeatedly told them that I would not testify, and that I had not seen [Cooper] on the night of the crime,” Sanchez said. “I was terrified and did not want to testify, but I felt I had no choice but to cooperate and say what the detectives wanted me to say.”

Sanchez said that after he testified and was released from prison, he applied for reward money being offered in the case. “I felt entitled to this money since I had been forced to testify at trial,” he said. Sanchez said he was awarded $10,000, of which he kept $6,000 and gave $4,000 to his attorney.

“My lies have been haunting me for many years, and I am relieved that I have an opportunity to correct them,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez’s brother-in-law also told the defense that in 1997 or 1998, while living in Orlando, Florida, Sanchez visited him. During that visit, Sanchez said he had gotten “into some kind of trouble and…had to drop a dime on somebody. It was a lie and [Sanchez] got some money out of it.”

The motion for new trial also said that the defense had not been informed prior to Cooper’s trial that Bratton was initially considered a suspect in the crime and police suspected that he had used his position as a token booth clerk to persuade Baretto to open the locked token booth door.

Bratton gave a sworn affidavit saying that police pressured him to cooperate against Cooper. The motion quoted Bratton as saying that detectives took him to the police station “on multiple occasions, accused him of acting in concert with the perpetrators, and told him he was a suspect in the murder. The detectives yelled at him and implied they would arrest him for the murder if he didn’t cooperate, but said they’d go easy on him if he did.”

Bratton said that he was scared and knew that “people had been sent to jail for less.” He said eventually detectives called him and said they had a suspect and wanted him to come to the precinct to view him. He said that after he arrived, detectives told him that Terry, his fellow clerk, had already identified the suspect and they needed him to do so as well.

The motion also said that the prosecution argued to the jury that Bratton and Sanchez had no reason to falsely identify Cooper. Bratton, the prosecution said, “says he saw the man. And you know how you know he saw the man? Because he went on thereafter to look at photo arrays and look at lineups and give descriptions. And would a person do that who did not see?”

As for Sanchez, the prosecution told the jury that when Sanchez identified Cooper, “he wasn’t under arrest. He said that when he had no pending cases…In other words, he said it when he didn’t need any kind of a deal.” The prosecution said that the only reason Sanchez testified against Cooper was because “he saw what he says he saw.”

The motion for new trial said that Terry told the defense that she saw Bratton standing across from the token booth near a pay telephone for several minutes before he came to the booth—details that she had not mentioned in her trial testimony. The motion said that if Bratton had come there only to retrieve his papers, there was no reason for him to linger around. “Terry’s statement suggests Bratton was timing his entry with the other two perpetrators,” the motion said.

The motion also presented a report from Jennifer Dysart, an associate professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and an expert in eyewitness identification. Dysart concluded that Terry’s and Bratton’s identifications were flawed and unreliable.

“In this particular case, there exist several factors that have been shown to affect witness accuracy: the limited opportunity the witnesses had to see the perpetrators, the fact that at least one weapon was viewed by the witnesses, the effects of stress/arousal, the use of a non-blind photo array and lineup with no pre-lineup warning that the actual perpetrator may or may not be there, the possibility of unconscious transference and commitment effects for the identification of Mr. Cooper in the lineup and at trial, which is especially important given that Ms. Terry did not identify Mr. Cooper in the first identification procedure in which he was shown,” Dysart said. “In summary, the combination of all of these factors significantly decreased the likelihood that accurate identifications could have been made by the witnesses in this case.”

In January 2020, the Kings County District Attorney’s office filed a response that agreed Cooper’s conviction should be vacated. The prosecution acknowledged that Sanchez had been arrested at the time he was first interviewed, but under the alias of David Sanchez, not Rico Sanchez. Therefore, the prosecution said, the trial prosecutor, Mark Hale, was unaware of Sanchez’s arrest. The prosecution also said that the charges against Sanchez were later dismissed and the record was sealed. The prosecution also said that Sanchez’s testimony that he voluntarily accompanied police to the precinct when he implicated Cooper was false, and the trial prosecutor’s closing argument that Sanchez wasn’t under arrest when he identified Cooper also was false.

At the time, Sanchez had been charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, and criminal possession of a weapon. The charges were dismissed on January 12, 1993 after one of the complaining witnesses was arrested on a drug charge. The dismissal occurred one day after Sanchez identified Cooper in the live lineup.

“There are no materials in the [prosecution’s] trial file in this case that make any reference to the fact that Sanchez had been arrested on December 4, 1992, and nothing in the file provides any reason to believe that either at or before the time of defendant’s trial, [Assistant District Attorney] Mark Hale, who tried this case, knew about Sanchez’s arrest,” the prosecution said in its response.

The prosecution said it did “not oppose defendant’s motion to vacate his judgment of conviction, solely on the basis of defendant’s…claim regarding the People’s failure to inform defendant that Sanchez was under arrest at the time he identified defendant’s photograph.”

On January 8, 2020, Supreme Court Judge Ruth Shillingford ordered Cooper’s conviction vacated and he was released on his own recognizance pending a retrial.

On November 9, 2020, the prosecution dismissed the charge. In a motion outlining the prosecution’s basis for dismissal, Assistant District Attorney Howard Jackson noted that while Terry maintained her identification was accurate, she doubted, due to the passage of time, that she would be able to identify Cooper in court.

Bratton reaffirmed his identification of Cooper, but also told the prosecution that he “possibly identified Mr. Cooper because he recognized him as a passenger who frequented the subway station where this murder occurred rather than because Mr. Cooper committed this crime.”

At the hearing on the motion, Cooper’s attorney, Thomas Hoffman, asked Kings County District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, to “appoint an independent panel to study and report how Mr. Cooper's wrongful conviction happened, how it can be avoided in the future and who, if anyone, is to be held accountable. We are also asking the court to recommend the commissioning of such an independent panel.”

Hoffman noted that Cooper suffered “a daily, minute by minute suffering. Mr. Cooper was a dead man walking. After two decades of losing all appeals, he was in a place of no hope and no light.”

Hoffman noted that it was not until after Cooper was granted a new trial and released that the defense was given Thomas Volino’s recorded statement to police identifying the gunman as someone “he knew as Chris.” The witness gave a recorded statement that was not disclosed, Hoffman said.

Hoffman added, “The family of the victim, Andres Baretto, no longer have the very small measure of comfort that at least the killer of their loved one is off the streets and has been brought to justice. The public is left to be the prey of two very dangerous people who likely committed additional violent crimes.”

After the case was dismissed, Cooper was embraced by his wife, Sandy, who had always believed in his innocence. “I’m a free man now,” Cooper told the New York Daily News. “I don’t have that burden on my back.” On July 26, 2021, Cooper filed a federal lawsuit against the City of New York, seeking $125 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction. Cooper settled the lawsuit in 2023, receiving $10 million.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/30/2020
Last Updated: 3/14/2024
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:25 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:25
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No