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Steven Carrington

Other Brooklyn CIU Exonerations
At 10:55 a.m. on January 2, 1995, a man called 911 to report a shooting at the Lumber Headquarters store in Brooklyn, New York.

Officers with the New York Police Department arrived a few minutes later. They entered the store and found 35-year-old Lloyd Campbell, an employee, dead of a gunshot wound to the head. (EMS workers would later report Campbell had also been shot in the stomach.)

Hugh Keizs, who was 56 years old, told police that he was buying supplies when a Black man with a slim build came inside, went behind the counter and told Keizs to leave. The man pulled out a small gun. Keizs said he tried to leave through the back door, but it was locked. When he tried the front door, another Black man—stockier than the first—confronted Keizs and told him to “stay put.” As that man walked Keizs to the other side of the store, he saw Campbell struggling with the first man and then heard two shots. The second man took a watch and a ring from Keizs, then left with the first man.

Patrick Dieudonne, the store’s assistant manager, had been on a forklift in the lumberyard when the shooting happened. He told police that he saw two Black men enter the store. His descriptions matched those given by Keizs.

The police recovered the store’s surveillance videotape. About five minutes before the crime, a Black man wearing a camouflage jacket entered and passed a woman on her way out. He walked around the aisles between the shelves, stopped in an aisle for a few seconds, walked back to the door, and left. The video also showed two other Black men entering the store, approaching Campbell and confronting Keizs, although the actual robbery could not be seen. In addition, the video never showed the face of the man who robbed Keizs.

On January 3, a woman gave police a promotional photo with two men, Shannon and “Unique,” aspiring musicians, whom she said were near the lumberyard at the time of the crime with a third man, Eddie West. A day later, they received another tip that also connected West with the crime.

The police determined that Unique’s real name was Mark Carrington, and he lived about a half-mile away from the lumberyard with his family, including his brother, 27-year-old Steven Carrington. After comparing Mark’s photo with the video, the police said he was the man in the camouflage jacket.

Dieudonne and Keizs viewed photo arrays with Mark Carrington. Neither made an identification. On January 7, the police created a second array, this time with Steven Carrington, who was on parole for a robbery conviction. Keizs identified Steven as the man who robbed him inside the store. Dieudonne identified Steven as one of the men he saw leaving the lumberyard.

Also, on January 7, Dieudonne viewed a photo array using the promotional photo of Shannon. He said Shannon was also one of the men leaving the store after the shooting. At this time, the police did not have Shannon’s last name, and they kept searching for him.

On April 26, the police received a tip that Shannon was in the basement at Carrington’s house. By the time they arrived at the house, Shannon was gone, but Steven Carrington was arrested. Later that day, Keizs viewed a lineup and identified Steven Carrington as the man who robbed him. Dieudonne viewed a separate lineup but was unable to make an identification.

Police read Carrington his Miranda rights and told him that he had been identified in the lineup. Carrington said he wasn’t there. When a detective told Carrington that Mark was on the video five minutes before the crime, Steven said he was not his “brother’s keeper.”

Carrington said that at the time of the robbery, he had spent the night with his girlfriend, Salisha Kahn. She told the police she had stayed with Carrington on either January 1 or 2 (she couldn’t remember which day and said they were no longer dating), but the next morning, Carrington had left to go to Kings County Hospital because his son was sick. She said he left around 8 or 9 a.m.

After interviewing Kahn, the police returned to Carrington and asked him if he wished to make a statement. Carrington said: “I have to say I wasn’t there. That’s it. Mistaken identity.” The police arrested Shannon France on June 2. Later, his fingerprint was matched to a print lifted from a metal cash box at the store.

Carrington was charged with second-degree murder, several robbery counts, and two counts of weapon possession. France was indicted on similar charges.

Prior to the trial, the court held what is called a Wade hearing to determine whether the police used proper procedures in securing the identifications of Carrington and France.

Detective Joseph Calabrese testified at the hearing about the photo arrays he created. He said that Dieudonne and Keizs had each viewed an array with Mark Carrington before viewing the array with Steven. The two separate arrays contained three of the same photos. Calabrese didn’t offer an explanation, other than “just the availability of the photos at the time.”

During the hearing, the parties became confused over whether both Keizs and Dieudonne had seen Mark Carrington’s array. Despite Calabrese’s testimony and records, both the defense and prosecution agreed with the hearing judge that only Dieudonne had seen both arrays with the overlapping fillers. The hearing judge allowed Keizs to make an in-court identification.

Carrington and France were tried jointly in Kings County Supreme Court, before a different judge, beginning on November 21, 1996.

Dieudonne identified France as one of the men he saw leaving the store. He did not identify Carrington.

Keizs testified about the events inside the store and identified Carrington in court as the man who robbed him. He also identified Carrington from the surveillance video. (This was despite the prosecution saying in its opening remarks that the face of the person said to be Carrington was not visible on the footage.) Keizs said the robber wore a hood that covered his hair. He said he had not given the police or the 911 operator any significant details about the gunman’s description because he was so afraid.

Keizs testified that he could not recall whether he identified Carrington from the photo array; he testified that he did not think he was “positive.”

Keizs testified that when he went to view the live lineup on April 26, Calabrese had told him, “We think we have one of the guys.” Later, after Keizs selected Carrington, Calabrese told him that he had done a good job.

Keizs also testified that his memory had been “refreshed” by watching the surveillance video a few days before the trial.

Calabrese testified about the investigation and the photo arrays with the overlapping fillers. He said that he did not bring Mark Carrington in for an interview because the witnesses didn’t identify him and the video only showed him “casing” the store, which was not a crime. He also said he didn’t pursue West as a suspect because he was not on the video. Calabrese said that although he had no information that Steven Carrington was involved in the crime, he created a photo array with him on “a strong hunch.”

In the photo array and the lineup, Steven Carrington wore a mustache and goatee. Calabrese testified that he never asked Keizs about the facial hair on the man who robbed him.

Calabrese testified that he had shown the surveillance video to Steven Carrington’s father, who was able to identify Mark but not Steven on the footage. Calabrese said he was certain that Steven Carrington was one of the men seen inside the store, because of his gait. “Sir, I explained to you the other day, I said, just watching the tape over and over again, by the way he walks, that’s him that comes in the store, grabs this customer, and the customer IDs him,” he testified.

Carrington’s defense was built around mistaken identification and his alibi.

The officer who took Keizs’s initial statement testified that Keizs made no mention that the robber wore a hood.

Kahn testified that she and Carrington left his house on the morning of January 2 at about 10 a.m. She said she later saw yellow tape in front of the lumber store. She acknowledged on cross-examination that she had initially told a prosecutor that she couldn’t recall on which morning she had been with Carrington. She also said that Carrington wore a goatee and mustache at the time.

Carrington’s mother, Richardene Carrington, testified that Carrington and Kahn left the house at about 10:30 a.m. on January 2 (she couldn’t recall which year). She testified that her son, Mark, was friends with France, but Steven didn’t hang out with them.

Tamara Carrington, Steven’s wife, said she called him at about 6:50 a.m. on January 2 and told him to meet her and their baby at the hospital. She said she got there around 7 a.m. and waited to see a physician. She said she called Carrington at 10, as she was still waiting, and he arrived at about 10:45 a.m. She said she knew the time because she had looked at the clock and wondered why it took him so long. Their child’s medical records were time-stamped at 10:55 a.m.

Steven Carrington testified that his arrest was based on mistaken identification. He testified about meeting his wife at the hospital, where their child received X-rays around 11 a.m. He said he learned about the robbery and murder after he left the hospital and went to the restaurant across the street from the lumber store.

Carrington said he did not hang out with France, who was his brother’s friend and rented time in the music studio in the Carrington basement.

In rebuttal, the state called a pediatrician from the hospital to rebut Tamara Carrington’s testimony that she waited for three hours before seeing a physician.

In closing arguments, Carrington’s attorney said the hospital records proved Carrington’s innocence. He said Keizs’s lineup identification had been tainted and his minimal description of the man who robbed him underscored his problems as an eyewitness.

A prosecutor said Keizs got a good look at the robber. He also said that Carrington’s alibi had holes. His girlfriend and mother had each testified they saw crime-scene tape outside the store at around 11 a.m., but photos taken at 12:35 p.m. on the day of the shooting showed no tape.

On December 12, 1996, the jury convicted Carrington of second-degree murder (under the felony-murder rule) and first-degree robbery. France was convicted of second-degree murder. Carrington received a sentence of 23 years to life; France received 25 years to life.

Prior to sentencing, Carrington’s attorney told the court that Carrington was innocent and said that he had given prosecutors the name of the other person with France in the store. He is referred to in court records as “the accomplice.” The state would later say it had no knowledge of this information during the trial.

Carrington’s initial appeal was denied without comment by the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division.

On March 1, 2010, Carrington moved for a new trial based on new evidence of innocence. The motion included a 2006 affidavit from Mark Carrington, who said that he knew his brother wasn’t involved because he saw France and the accomplice at Eddie West’s house after the crime, and the men were discussing the robbery.

The motion also included a statement from France that said Steven Carrington was not involved in the crime. The statement said that, on the advice of counsel, France could not say how he knew.

Carrington’s motion was denied. The court said that the statements by France and Mark Carrington were vague and unsubstantiated. As part of its investigation prior to filing a response, prosecutors investigated the claims regarding the involvement of the so-called accomplice. Their research suggested he was incarcerated at the time of the crime.

In 2017, Carrington asked the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office to review his case. Later, the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic at New York Law School began representing Carrington, assisting in the re-investigation of his case.

The CRU did a more thorough review of the accomplice’s prison record and learned that he had been released on work furlough from Saturday through Thursday for 13 weeks, beginning on September 30, 1994. His last furlough ended two days after the shooting.

Separately, Carrington’s post-conviction attorneys gave the CRU several cassette recordings and a videotape recording made in 1999 that appeared to capture the accomplice implicating himself in the shooting. In one of the audio recordings, the accomplice said the watch wasn’t an expensive item, but rather a Seiko. “I know we messed up,” he said.

On the video recording, the accomplice talked with a friend of Steven Carrington’s while Mark Carrington was in the room but off-camera. In the conversation, the accomplice initially didn’t want to discuss the crime. But the friend persisted. He said: “You went into the store, you did what you had to do, [someone] died. What did you get out of it?” The accomplice shook his head and said, “Shit.”

CRU investigators also interviewed a confidential witness who knew the Carrington brothers and the accomplice. He said in an affidavit that at the time of the shooting, he was across the street in the pharmacy. Mark Carrington was there, looking at the store. The confidential witness said Mark left the store, and then he saw France and the accomplice leave the store. He did not see Steven Carrington. He said he kept quiet out of fear.

In subsequent interviews with the CRU, the confidential witness said that the accomplice later confessed his involvement in the crime and described how Mark Carrington planned the robbery. He said that the accomplice told him that France, the accomplice, and another man were in the store, but the confidential witness didn’t know who that person was.

The confidential witness said he tried to persuade the accomplice to go to the DA’s office, to make things right, but the accomplice said he wasn’t about to go to jail for anybody. The CRU was unable to interview the accomplice.

Steven Carrington maintained his innocence in his hearings before the parole board. He was released from prison on June 8, 2018.

In an interview with the CRU, Steven Carrington said he and Mark, who is five years younger, were never close. Steven said Shannon France told him what happened while they were both at Rikers Island awaiting trial. Steven said he knew about his brother’s involvement and told his trial attorney, who interviewed Mark. His family chose not to put Mark on the stand because of his poor health and his exposure to criminal charges.

At his parole hearings, France said that he had taken part in the robbery and shooting but Steven Carrington was innocent and not involved in the crime. He was asked what happened in the store. France said: “Went into the store and it was a tussle because the clerk tried to disarm the weapon from me and it went off … and the other individual that entered the store with me, who was not [Steven Carrington], was the one who robbed the customer,” France said. He was released from prison in 2021 and deported to Guyana.

In a report filed on May 16, 2024, the CRU recommended that Carrington’s convictions be vacated and his charges dismissed. The wrongful conviction was based on a “fundamentally flawed single eyewitness identification,” the CRU report said, but the problems with Carrington’s case also extended to mistakes by prosecutors and Carrington’s attorney in their failure to alert the trial judge to the hearing judge’s misunderstanding about the overlapping photos in the two arrays.

“Had the Wade hearing been reopened, an independent source hearing would have shown that Keizs only noticed that his robber was a stocky Black male,” the report said. “Keizs would have been precluded from identifying defendant at trial, effectively ending the people’s case.”

The CRU report also said that Carrington’s attorney made other mistakes. He did not effectively cross-examine Keizs about the photo arrays, which could have undermined the credibility of the only witness to place Carrington at the crime scene.

In addition, the report said, Carrington’s reliance on an alibi defense was flawed. The witnesses were not adequately prepared for cross-examination, and their testimony contained inconsistencies that were exploited by the prosecution. In addition, the witness testimony told jurors that Carrington had a wife and a girlfriend, which did not cast him in the most favorable light, the report said.

The CRU report also said that it was “improper” for prosecutors to have elicited testimony from Keizs identifying Carrington from the video footage, because they had noted in their opening statement that the robber’s face could not be seen.

“To the extent that the jury credited Keizs’s video identification, defendant was prejudiced,” the report said. “The only evidence of defendant’s guilt was Keizs’s unreliable in-court identification of defendant.”

Also on May 16, 2024, Justice Matthew D’Emic of Kings County Supreme Court granted the state’s motions to vacate Carrington’s convictions and dismiss his charges.

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said the case underscored the problems with one-witness identifications. “Mr. Carrington has proclaimed his innocence from Day One and, while we cannot undo the decades he spent in prison, today we are able to substantiate his claim and give him back his good name, Gonzalez said.

“I’m happy, but it’s bittersweet,” Carrington told the Daily News. “It took 28 years. I was sentenced to 23 to life. I did the full time and I got out, was still fighting to prove my innocence. Everything starts again. It’s another chapter of my life I have to get accustomed to. But I’m happy that chapter is closed.”

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 6/14/2024
Last Updated: 6/14/2024
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1995
Sentence:23 to Life
Age at the date of reported crime:27
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No