Brooklyn District Attorney Moves to Vacate Conviction of Man Who Was Found Guilty Based on Unreliable Eyewitness


Friday, November 3, 2023

Brooklyn District Attorney Moves to Vacate Conviction of
Man Who Was Found Guilty Based on Unreliable Eyewitness

Defendant Was Paroled in April 2021 After Serving Nearly 35 Years in Prison

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that following a thorough reinvestigation by his Conviction Review Unit (CRU), he will move to vacate the conviction of Detroy Livingston, 59, who was convicted after a 1986 trial in connection with a murder that happened four years earlier inside a Bedford-Stuyvesant bodega. The reinvestigation found that the sole eyewitness was highly unreliable, having given numerous contradictory statements and being high on crack cocaine when she allegedly witnessed the incident. The CRU report is available here.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This old conviction was predicated on the testimony of a single witness who, based on a reinvestigation by my Conviction Review Unit, should have never been called to testify at trial. Her myriad inconsistent statements and newly discovered crack habit undermine this conviction and it must be reversed.”

The defendant will appear in court today at 11 a.m. before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic in 320 Jay Street, 15th Floor.
The District Attorney said that on December 11, 1982, four men robbed a small grocery store in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn of marijuana. During the robbery, employee Jairam Gangaram was fatally shot, and another worker was shot but survived his injuries. Despite interviewing several witnesses, the police investigation was stalled until 1986, when the defendant and an alleged accomplice were arrested and indicted for the crime.

The defendant was convicted based on the testimony of a woman, who was 19 at the time, who claimed she saw him shoot the victim and later saw his alleged accomplice with marijuana bags with a stamp she had previously noticed in that store. The defendant, who earlier rejected a plea offer of six to 12 years in prison and consistently maintained his innocence, was convicted of murder, robbery, and related counts. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison and was paroled in April 2021.

The CRU reinvestigated the case after receiving a request from the deceased’s daughter who claimed the defendant was innocent. In interviews with the eyewitness, CRU found that she had little recollection regarding the case but stated that at the time she “was on crack, hard,” contradicting her hearing testimony that she only used to smoke marijuana.

An analysis of the witness’s 10 statements, given to police and in court, showed that she was inconsistent about the defendant’s role or whether he was involved at all, about where she was when she witnessed the crime, about whether she saw the assailants flee, and about hearing the suspects discuss the crime on a later date. When confronted by the defense about some of the inconsistencies, she claimed to not recall making those statements. Furthermore, her testimony was physically implausible as she claimed to have hidden behind a dumpster right outside the store and looked in through the window, but the window was largely blocked by objects (based on a crime scene photo that was never shown to the jury), and a security gate was almost certainly rolled down.

Her testimony at the codefendant’s subsequent trial was even more incredible and it appears that the jury disregarded her completely – it only convicted that individual of attempted murder and weapon possession, relying on testimony from the surviving store employee. Given all of these findings, the CRU concluded that the witness should have never been called to the stand and, since she was the only link between the defendant and the crime, the conviction should be vacated, and the indictment dismissed.
To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit has resulted in 36 convictions being vacated since 2014. Currently, CRU has approximately 40 open investigations.

This case was investigated by Assistant District Attorney Rachel Kalman of the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, under the supervision of Eric Sonnenschein, Deputy Chief of the Conviction Review Unit, and Charles Linehan, Unit Chief.