New York Daily News: BROOKLYN, NY – A man who spent 29 years in prison on a homicide conviction Brooklyn prosecutors now admit they can’t justify on Friday got the weight of the case off his back.
Gerard Domond’s record was cleared at a hearing in Brooklyn Supreme Court after prosecutors asked a judge to toss his conviction because they found their only eyewitness had a “serious mental health condition” that was never disclosed to defense attorneys.
“The witness was the whole ball game,” said prosecutor Mark Hale, who runs the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. “The people cannot stand by the conviction.”
That led Judge Matthew D’Emic to reverse Domond’s conviction.
Domond was released on parole in 2016, more than three decades after he was convicted of the murder of Patrick Hinkson outside a club in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, according to the DA.
Hinkson, shot once through the head, was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Brooklyn, where he died.
Three days after the killing a witness known only as FP told cops Domond was the killer, and prosecutors ran with it.
Cops never found a crime scene in the slay — but FP told them it happened in the parking lot of Club Love, in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.
No one in the area even reported gun shots, prosecutors said Friday.
At the time of his testimony at Domond’s trial, FP, who had open narcotics and robbery cases, had been incarcerated for four to five months at a special unit in Kings County Hospital for people with serious psychiatric issues, prosecutors now admit.
Information about FP’s psychiatric issues never got to defense attorneys or to jurors, the DA’s office said.
The prosecutor on the case, Paul Maggiotto, instead told jurors at the trial that FP was being housed in the hospital because of an AIDS diagnosis — though there is no evidence that the witness had AIDS.
Maggiotto later was recruited to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, and was the lead prosecutor in the 1991 trial of Pamela Smart, a former high school media coordinator who was convicted of murder conspiracy for persuading her 15-year-old lover and three other boys to kill her husband.
Smart’s trial got worldwide coverage and inspired the movie “To Die For,” in which Smart was portrayed by Nicole Kidman. She is now serving life in prison without parole. Maggiotto is now in private practice in Concord, NH.
Domond said at his trial that at the time of the murder, he was hundreds of miles away at a religious retreat in Georgia.
Domond was apprehended in the case by former Brooklyn homicide Det. Louis Scarcella, whose tactics and coerced confessions from suspects have resulted in many of the CRU’s overturned convictions.
The DA says Scarcella had nothing to do with the wrongful conviction.
“Scarcella’s limited involvement in apprehending the defendant… and transporting the defendant to the precinct did not at all affect the integrity of the investigation, prosecution, or verdict,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
Domond spent the next 29 years in prison. He said that behind bars, he was targeted for retribution by people who believed he killed Hinkson.
“Friends and family try to hurt you behind the wall — people thinking I killed their brother or friend. And I had to deal with that,” he said.
Domond went three times before the parole board before he was released in 2016. All the while he maintained his innocence, according to the DA’s report.
“I’m just happy to be with my family again,” said Domond, speaking before the judge Friday. “It’s a long journey.”
“God bless you and your family — your beautiful familiy,” said D’Emic.
“It feels good being free knowing that my name is clear,” Domond said later outside the courthouse. “And you know my family is happy… They all know I didn’t do it, you know, so I’m just happy.”
“This investigation revealed that crucial information about the mental state of the only eyewitness was kept from the jury and from the accused, depriving him of a fair trial. I will not stand by a conviction that was obtained unfairly,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in a statement.
To celebrate being cleared of the conviction, Domond planned Friday night to enjoy a meal of Haitian black rice and roasted chicken made by his mother, Marie Pyrol.
“My mom cooked some good meal,” he said. “I’ll go eat and call some of my friends and tell them I’m a free man now.”
Noah Goldberg covers Brooklyn supreme and federal courts for the New York Daily News. He previously covered criminal justice for the Brooklyn Eagle.