innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Jurors Acquit Man Accused of Killing Transit Supervisors

This article appeared in the New York Times on October 12, 2006:

Jurors Acquit Man Accused of Killing Transit Supervisors

By MICHAEL BRICK

An out-of-work train cleaner accused of executing two transit supervisors in a drunken rage walked out of court free yesterday, acquitted of all charges.

When the verdict was read, the man, Darryl Dinkins, 42, sat and held his lawyer’s hand, trembling and crying. He had been in jail since Feb. 28, 2004, the day after the transit supervisors were found shot dead inside a trailer parked behind the fence of a 75-acre railyard in Coney Island.

The police questioned Mr. Dinkins hours after the shooting. He had a history of trouble with the victims, Luigi Sedita, 61, and Clives Patterson, 46, who had caught him playing dominoes on the job, the police have said. He had been disciplined by Mr. Sedita, and months before the shootings, fired by New York City Transit.

Detectives testified that Mr. Dinkins gave them a confession but refused to sign it or repeat it before a video camera. After his arrest, the police have said, he tried to hang himself in his jail cell. He was charged with first-degree murder.

During a two-week trial in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, prosecutors built a case around the confession and the circumstances of the crime. Defense lawyers called the police detectives liars.
A central witness, Detective James Gaynor, testified that Mr. Dinkins had said he had been fired “because certain supervisors didn’t like him.”

When told of the shooting, Detective Gaynor said, Mr. Dinkins had responded, “I hope you don’t think I did that.”

Detectives testified that Mr. Dinkins had given them a detailed account of his night, a boozy but specific history of gambling clubs, cash machines, liquor stores and drug corners, ending past midnight but before the time the shots were fired, which medical examiners said happened after 4:30 a.m.

Mr. Dinkins, who lived alone, initially said he had gone home to sleep, detectives testified. After hours of questioning, detectives said he changed his account to include shooting the supervisors, but without as much detail. He was unsure of the type of gun, his route to the railyard or his method of evading security, detectives testified, but he remembered pulling the trigger.

“At that point, it just got dark, like the lights went out,” Detective James McCafferty testified Mr. Dinkins had said to him.

Defense lawyers emphasized the lack of details, portraying the confession as false and coerced.
“Their story doesn’t make sense,” argued a defense lawyer, Jerilyn L. Bell. “The only logical conclusion is that they’re being untruthful.”

An assistant district attorney, Mark J. Hale, argued that the police were right to focus on Mr. Dinkins. The victims had their wallets and were shot sitting down. The railyard was vast and imposing, difficult to navigate but so isolated that five gunshots could have gone unnoticed.

“You see what I’m driving at, ladies and gentlemen?” Mr. Hale asked the jurors.

They did not. After a day of deliberations, the jury sent out a note saying it had reached a verdict. Mr. Dinkins entered the courtroom wearing a gray suit and glasses. He turned to look at his family, seated across from relatives of the victims. The forewoman delivered the verdict, and her fellows were polled.

“Any basis for further detention of this defendant, Mr. Hale?” asked Justice James G. Starkey.
Mr. Hale said, “None that I can think of.”

The victims’ families left the courthouse without speaking to reporters. Mr. Dinkins stood up. His eyes were bloodshot. He did not speak. He walked out the door and hugged his mother. Someone sang a gospel refrain, someone chanted, “Home sweet home.”

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