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Louis Charriez

Other Brooklyn Murder Exonerations
On January 10, 1997, 29-year-old Larry Byrd was fatally stabbed in the heart while on the second floor of a crack house where he lived in Brooklyn, New York.

A month later, on February 10, 1997, police arrested 33-year Louis Charriez, who had been identified by witnesses as being in a fight with Byrd during which Byrd was heard to say that he had been stabbed and Charriez was said to have admitted he stabbed Byrd.

When interviewed by police, Charriez said that he had lived in the building for two months and knew Byrd as someone who smoked crack cocaine and stole drugs and money from women drug users. Charriez said he and Byrd argued when Charriez told Byrd to stop smoking crack in the building. “He [Byrd] takes out a knife, we struggle over the knife[,] he’s high, he got stabbed in the struggle,” Charriez said. “He goes down to the first floor, I think that he knocks on a door, they open the door, I walked past him, I left the building. I didn’t know that he was that hurt."

Charriez was charged with depraved indifference murder, manslaughter, and criminal possession of a weapon. He went to trial in September 1997 in Kings County Supreme Court. On September 19, 1997, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

Charriez went to trial a second time in December 1997. Nadine Bailey testified that at about 6:30 p.m. on January 10, 1997, she began arguing with Robert “Noodles” Thomas on the second floor of the building where they lived at 172 Miller Street. She said that Byrd, who lived on the third floor with Charriez and Bailey, intervened and confronted Thomas. Then, Charriez intervened and told Byrd to pick on someone his own size, Bailey said.

She said Byrd and Charriez were arguing when Charriez said, “I’m tired of this.” Bailey said Charriez swung and “hit” Byrd. She did not see anything in Charriez’s hands and thought he had punched Byrd. Bailey said Charriez told Byrd to leave the building. Bailey said she realized Byrd had been stabbed and ran to the first floor to call an ambulance.

Bailey said she then heard Byrd knocking at the door. She let him in, and he said, “I’m hit.” Bailey said she was trying to stop the bleeding when Charriez came down and told Byrd, “You got…what you deserved,” and then left the building.

Bailey testified that two days later, she found a bloody knife in her apartment. She said she recognized it because Charriez had borrowed it from her a few weeks earlier. Bailey said she tossed the knife in the rear of the building. It was later recovered by police, but there was no blood on it.

Bailey admitted during cross-examination that when first interviewed by police, she did not say that Charriez stabbed Byrd. Under re-direct examination by the prosecutor, Bailey said she had not received any promises from the prosecution for her testimony.

Althemease Ramsey testified that she and Fairlene Walton were in the first floor apartment in the building when they heard a commotion from upstairs. She said she and Walton went out the rear door of their apartment and saw Byrd arguing with Charriez. She said Byrd was holding his chest and said, “He stabbed me.”

Ramsey said it appeared that Charriez had a knife in his hand.

Walton testified that she saw Charriez holding a knife in his right hand and ordering Byrd to leave the building.

Both women testified they saw blood gushing from Byrd’s chest. Ramsey admitted that she had convictions for petit larceny and possession of drugs and stolen property. Walton admitted she had prior convictions for selling crack cocaine and for petit larceny.

Ramsey claimed that in September 1997, prior to Charriez’s first trial, Charriez tried to talk her out of testifying against him. Walton and Ramsey denied they received any benefits or preferential treatment from the prosecution.

Marcus Lucien testified that he lived in the building and that at about 7:30 p.m. he was selling drugs around the corner on Atlantic Avenue when Charriez walked up. Lucien said Charriez said he was stressed because he had “poked” Byrd. Lucien said he walked to 172 Miller Avenue and was told that Byrd had died. Lucien said he returned and that he and Robert McCreary, who was Lucien’s lookout, attempted to physically restrain Charriez to make a citizen’s arrest, but Charriez fled.

When the prosecutor asked Lucien whether any promises “whatsoever” had been made for his testimony, Lucien replied, “None.”

After Lucien left the witness stand, the defense learned that in fact Lucien had been given favorable treatment after being arrested for failing to complete community service. Lucien had been given a second chance after the prosecution said he was going to testify in a murder trial. The judge allowed the defense to reopen cross-examination of Lucien since the prosecution had not disclosed that information.

Milton Ruffin and Felix Centeno testified for the defense that the building at 172 Miller Avenue was a drug house. Both testified they saw Charriez and Byrd struggling over a knife almost immediately after Byrd had consumed crack cocaine and became violently paranoiac.

Ruffin said that Byrd swung the knife, Charriez grabbed Byrd’s hands, and “that’s when I saw feathers” pop out of Byrd’s coat. Centeno said he saw the knife slip in Byrd’s hands and that Byrd stabbed himself. Ruffin and Centeno admitted they had numerous prior convictions. The prosecution questioned Centeno about hitting Lucien and McCreary with a pipe to dissuade them from testifying at the trial.

Marie Ramos testified that in September 1997, during Charriez’s first trial, Ramsey, whom she considered a best friend, told her that the prosecution had arrested her and taken her to the district attorney’s office in handcuffs. Ramsey told Ramos that she was going to testify against Charriez because the prosecution would drop all of her warrants – that it was either Ramsey or Charriez, and Ramsey said she was not going back to jail.

Ramos testified that Ramsey told her to tell Charriez, “I have to do what I have to do because I don’t want to go to jail,” and that the prosecution had “dropped everything” for her.

On December 16, 1997, the jury convicted Charriez of depraved indifference murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed Charriez’s conviction in June 2000.

Charriez refused to give up. He moved for a writ of error coram nobis, but that was denied in 2001. He filed repeated motions for a new trial and was rebuffed each time. He filed a motion for DNA testing, which was denied. He filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus and that also was denied.

A legal lifeline appeared in 2015 in the case of Wildon Rodriguez, who had been convicted of murder in Brooklyn in 1999 and sentenced to 25 years to life. The primary witness against him was Ramsey, except she was identified in Rodriguez’s trial as Althamease Cort, one of several names she used.

On December 15, 2015, Rodriguez filed a pro se motion in Kings County Supreme Court to vacate his conviction based on the prosecution’s failure to disclose exculpatory evidence and to correct false testimony. While in prison, Rodriguez had spent years filing extensive public-records requests related to his case. These documents undermined the state’s claim that Cort/Ramsey had received nothing for her testimony in Rodriguez’s case.

He had tracked down a court transcript from a 1994 hearing, where a judge told Cort/Ramsey that she was a “predicate felon” and looking at between 18 and 36 months in a state prison for the stolen property and possession charges she was facing. The stolen property charge was the most recent, occurring in January 1994. “What was offered you was the minimum plea that can be offered and that’s the minimum sentence that can be imposed,” the judge said.

But Cort/Ramsey’s plea and final sentencing were continued several times until April 15, 1994. In the interim, Cort/Ramsey had picked Rodriguez out of the two lineups and testified before a grand jury. It was only then that she received that more lenient sentence, which she served in a city facility, rather than in an upstate New York prison.

Most significantly, Rodriguez also uncovered evidence that Cort/Ramsey had received more than $35,000 in cash, housing, and food allowances as part of a witness-protection program tied to her testimony against Charriez. This assistance had begun on May 14, 1997 and continued until April 12, 1999, just prior to the start of Rodriguez’s first trial.

Rodriguez’s attorney, Robert Reuland, filed a petition seeking to vacate Rodriguez’s conviction. The conviction was vacated in April 2019. Kings County Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano Jr. criticized the trial prosecutor, Kyle Reeves, for his “blatantly intentional misstatements to the jury” and for not correcting Cort/Ramsey’s false denials of any favorable treatment from the prosecution. Justice Mangano said the prosecution should have also disclosed benefits conferred on Cort/Ramsey in the Charriez case.

In September 2019, Reuland filed a petition seeking to vacate Charriez’s conviction. The petition said the trial prosecutor in Charriez’s case, Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, had failed not only to reveal the benefits to Cort/Ramsey, but also an additional $20,000 in benefits to the other civilian witnesses for the prosecution such as Walton, Bailey, Lucien, and McCreary. In addition, Gough had elicited false statements from the witnesses denying they received benefits, and argued to the jury that the witnesses had not received benefits, the petition said.

The petition said that Gough, who by then was the chief of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office Homicide Bureau, “certainly…was aware of the truth, yet he did nothing to correct the record.”

The petition said that Gough presented Cort/Ramsey as a “civic-minded woman with a few arrests who had come forward out of [a] sense of civic duty, receiving nothing for her testimony and having no connection whatsoever to law enforcement. This impression of [Cort/Ramsey] was so utterly false that it would be almost laughable except for the sobering reality that her testimony certainly put one man in jail for the rest of his life and contributed significantly to the incarceration of another…Her testimony was available for purchase.”

Meanwhile the prosecution appealed the ruling granting Rodriguez a new trial.

On September 30, 2020, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York upheld the ruling granting Rodriguez a new trial. The appeals court said the records that the state failed to turn over were material to Rodriguez’s defense because they undercut the testimony of Cort/Ramsey that she didn’t have any deals with prosecutors and because they contradicted the prosecution’s claim in final argument that Cort/Ramsey never “took a deal” or “asked for anything in return.”

By then, Cort/Ramsey had died. On January 8, 2021, a prosecution motion to dismiss Rodriguez’s case was granted.

On February 25, 2021, Kings County Supreme Court Justice Jane Tully vacated Charriez’s conviction and ordered a new trial. Justice Tully declared, “The People’s failure to disclose the moneys paid, promises made, and benefits conferred upon every single witness who testified against [Charriez], failure to correct misstatements, and conduct in bolstering the credibility and misstatements of the witnesses, constituted a denial of [Charriez’s] rights and a pattern of breach of the People’s constitutional duty.”

Justice Tully ordered Charriez released from custody that same day. On January 27, 2023, the prosecution dismissed the case.

In February 2023, Charriez filed a claim for compensation from the state of New York.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/13/2023
Last Updated: 4/1/2024
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1997
Sentence:25 to Life
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No