Legal aid society fights to exonerate Brooklyn man convicted of 2004 murder

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For more than a decade James Davis has been sitting in prison cell, a convicted murderer.

But Davis has maintained his innocence since the day of his arrest.

His defense attorneys with The Legal Aid Society now believe new evidence proves his innocence and should set him free.

They filed a motion to vacate the conviction of Davis in Kings County Supreme Court.

“When I got assigned to his appeal, the first thing he told me was he didn’t do it,” explained Susan Epstein, an attorney with Legal Aid.

In January of 2004, Blake Harper was shot and killed at a party in a Masonic Lodge in Brooklyn. Davis admits he was at the party, but says he got sick and left two hours before the shooting.

A woman who did not attend the party first identified Davis as the shooter. That woman has since died. Davis’s attorneys say before her death she admitted she only implicated Davis because she was in love with him, but he was dating another woman.

Three other witnesses initially picked Davis out of a lineup, but Epstein insists “there is a fairly strong resemblance we believe between our client and the real shooter.”

“We have five witnesses who came and told the Brooklyn District Attorney what happened that night,” Epstein said.

In 2014, the Brooklyn DA established one of the largest conviction review units in the country after concerns too many innocent people were sitting in prison. Legal Aid lawyers were hoping the unit would look over Davis’ case, but they believe the unit has taken on a lot fewer cases after the death of former District Attorney Ken Thompson in 2016. Davis and his lawyers are still hoping for his sentence to be vacated, even without the support of the Brooklyn DA.

In a statement to PIX11, a spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “in Brooklyn, we take claims of wrongful convictions very seriously and have overturned 24 convictions to date. We also spent months investigating this case and interviewed many of the witnesses referenced in the defense motion as well as other witnesses. We will continue to investigate the claims made in the motion and respond to it in court.”

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