Exclusive: Wrongfully convicted man to begin new role as St. John’s law professor

Local News

NEW YORK — When Jabbar Collins joins Charlie Linehan to teach a St. John’s University School of Law course on wrongful conviction, it will be informed by his own experiences. Linehan and Collins are preparing to teach a course together next semester at St. John’s University School of Law. 

Collins was convicted of a Brooklyn murder at the age of 21 and Linehan is a former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Together, they’ll teach Justice Dissected: The Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction.

It’s a personal topic for Collins, who was arrested and convicted in the 1994 murder of a Brooklyn rabbi. Collins was named by an anonymous tipster, but there was never any physical evidence tying Collins to he case. 

He spent 16 years behind bars, working to prove his innocence. 

“I literally went after the study of law in the same way a drowning man would go for air,” Collins explained in an exclusive interview with PIX11 News.

“I literally read everything I could get my hands on regarding post conviction litigation, and if I couldn’t find it in the law library, I would ask my mom and my family and my brothers to buy it, had a very supportive family stood by my side throughout this whole whole ordeal,” he added.

In 2010, Collins was exonerated — thanks in part to is own research. 

He’s been fighting to help other falsely imprisoned people ever since.

“There’s so many other men who are wrongfully convicted just like I was, so many other stories of suffering,” Collins said. 

As Collins and Linehan prepare to teach their course together, they are keenly aware that their law school students will likely include future prosecutors. They believe they can empower students with a different perspective

“I want them to be able to spot these issues at the inception of a case and be able to avoid what is known formally as confirmation bias, tunnel vision,” Linehan said.

Collins said it would also “bring home the damage that a wrongful conviction will bring a family,” noting “how many lives it destroys at one time.”

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