Big, big day in habeasland yesterday. Judge Irizarry officially granted Jabar Collins' habeas petition (discussed previously here), ordered that he be released, and, took the rare, and incredible, step of barring the prosecution from retrying Collins based on evidence that the prosecution withheld evidence, coerced witnesses and lied to the court and the jury.
The headline from the New York Law Journal article (available for free(!) today) says it all: "Judge Order's Inmate's Release, Blasts D.A.'s Lack of Remorse." According to the article, the DJ stated that the prosecution's actions in the case were "shameful." Wow.
What's interesting is that an evidentiary yesterday was take place yesterday to explore the prosecutorial misconduct. Instead, petitioner's counsel and the DA's office reached an agreement on Monday night for the relief that the court granted. Here's the quote from defense counsel: "I was looking forward to confronting [the prosecutor] with his affidavit and his statements at the trial, and comparing those with the truth. Obviously, in the final analysis, the district attorney's office didn't want to expose Mr. Vecchione to cross-examination." Despite the habeas grant and the harsh words from Judge Irizarry, the Brooklyn DA, Charles Hynes, was defiant. He stated that his office would not conduct any internal investigation of the case. He also rejected the suggestion that his office conceded to avoid putting the trial prosecutor on the stand.
Now that the petition has been officially granted, it becomes habeas grant number 4 in the district courts this year.
Not to make too sweeping a statement here, but this grant shows precisely why habeas corpus remains a vital check on the criminal justice system. For whatever reasons, the state court did not correct this injustice, despite what appears to be a mountain of evidence showing misconduct. Fortunately for Mr. Collins, even though habeas corpus has been tragically diminished in so many ways, it still had enough life in it to get him the relief that he deserved.