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After a New York murder conviction is overturned, another draws scrutiny

By Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
updated 2:48 PM EDT, Mon June 3, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sundhe Moses was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of a 4-year-old girl in 1997
  • His conviction review is one of 50 cases that a district attorney's office is investigating
  • Suggestions that a separate murder conviction be tossed out sparked the investigations
  • A former NYPD officer involved in both cases defends his police work

New York (CNN) -- Sixteen years ago, Sundhe Moses was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of a 4-year-old girl caught in a gang-related shootout. But the District Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, New York, is now taking a second look at his case after another murder conviction was overturned in March.

Moses' conviction review is one of 50 investigations from the District Attorney's Criminal Investigation Unit that was sparked after prosecutors suggested that David Ranta's second-degree murder conviction of a rabbi in 1991 be tossed out.

A witness came forward years after the case and said that an investigator coached him into identifying Ranta in a lineup. Ranta, who insisted he was innocent for years, was freed from prison after serving 23 years.

The same detective was involved in Moses' investigation.

Moses, now 37, said that former New York Police Department Officer Louis Scarcella beat him, wrote the words of a confession he was forced to sign and smudged his signature, according to Ron Kuby, Moses' lawyer.

Kuby said there were multiple red flags raised through the trial, despite Moses being found guilty and sentenced to 16½ years to life.

According to Kuby, none of the six eyewitnesses identified Moses at trial, though two said they identified him earlier in a lineup.

Moses also insisted on testifying in court, a rare occurrence often insisted upon by the innocent, Kuby said.

Kuby suggests that the high-profile crime of an innocent victim and the public's demand for action led police to inaccurately charge Moses.

"Moses knew many of the people in that area implicated by gang violence," Kuby told CNN on Monday. "It was ... guilt by association."

"I believe that he forced him to talk," Moses' sister, Barbara Moses, said of Scarcella. "From day one, he has been saying this."

Scarcella told CNN on Monday: "I never, ever beat a confession out of anyone. I never mistreated a defendant. I was one of the finest of the finest, and my name in the police department was synonymous with honor."

The Kings County District Attorney's Office said it could not comment on the case, calling it an open investigation.

Scarcella retired from the New York Police Department before the investigations began.

CNN's Mary Snow, Aaron Cooper, Raelyn Johnson and Laura Ly contributed to this report.

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