Brooklyn DA moves to vacate woman's wrongful manslaughter conviction

AmNews Staff Reports | 2/25/2016, 9:46 a.m.
A Brooklyn DA works to clear the name of a woman wrongfully convicted of manslaughter eighteen years ago.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson

Vanessa Gathers, 58, was wrongfully convicted of manslaughter after a 1998 jury trial, says Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on a recommendation from his Conviction Review Unit.

“After a thorough and fair review of the case by my Conviction Review Unit and the Independent Review Panel, I have concluded that, in the interest of justice, the manslaughter conviction obtained against Vanessa Gathers should not stand and that she should be given back her good name,” Thompson said.

Nov.18, 1991, Michael Shaw, 71, called 911 and reported that he had been assaulted and robbed inside of his apartment. He was taken to a hospital by ambulance and underwent two operations to stop the bleeding in his brain. He lapsed into a post-surgical coma and died April 21, 1992. The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

Five years later, in 1997, after further investigation by police, Gathers was questioned again by Detective Louis Scarcella and gave a confession. Her confession was the sole evidence against her at trial. She was convicted in 1998 and imprisoned then released on parole March 2, 2007, after spending 10 years in prison. She completed her parole in 2012.

The CRU found that the complete lack of a coherent narrative in the defendant’s confession combined with apparent factual errors amount to reasonable doubt in the validity of the confession itself.