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Man Served 20.5 Years in Prison Over a False Witness Testimony

By Claudia Gutierrez

BROOKLYN, NY – False witness testimony and a lack of review of medical and scientific evidence led Robert Hicks (not his real name), to be unjustly charged with shooting a man outside a Brooklyn apartment and to serve 20.5 years in prison.

Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez and his Conviction Review Unit (CRU) thoroughly investigated the Hicks case and concluded that he was wrongfully convicted. Shortly after the investigation, Hicks was exonerated of all charges.

The CRU’s investigation was part of a larger effort to review several Brooklyn cases suspected of wrongful convictions.

Hicks’s freedom was bittersweet. He served nearly his entire 25-year sentence before being exonerated.

The victim in the 1991 case was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds outside an apartment building in Brooklyn, New York. The witness in the case at first identified herself using a fake name and told a detective that she was “at a nearby store at the time of the shooting.”

According to the CRU report, “The detective did not create an official report of this version of events, but he wrote a summary of the interview in his notebook.”

The witness then identified herself using her real name and changed her story by telling a different detective that she was present during the shooting and saw Hicks shoot the victim. One notable part of the witness’s testimony was that she claimed the victim ran after Hicks after he was shot but that he then “collapsed on the sidewalk.”

It was this specific part of the witness’s testimony that led the CRU to conclude that her testimony was false. After reviewing the medical and scientific evidence of the case, it was obvious that the victim’s wounds were too severe for him to have been able to run after his shooter, as the witness claimed to have seen him do.

At the trial, the witness ended up retracting her earlier testimony of what she saw happen the night of the shooting. The defense counsel confronted her on the recantation, and she responded by claiming that “Hicks threatened her family and pressured her into recanting.”

Later in the trial, the prosecution brought up the false identity that the witness had initially used in her first statement to a detective. They made it seem like it was a whole different person, and they told the defense counsel that the witness had no idea who that was, despite the fact that they were the same person.

After the trial and Hicks’s conviction, Hicks sought to appeal the decision “on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel and actual innocence.” He successfully remanded his case and got a hearing for his actual innocence claim to be reviewed.

It was then that the CRU stepped in to review his case.

In addition to the false witness testimony previously stated, the CRU also discovered “ballistic evidence supporting a finding that two different guns were used in the shooting,” which also went against the witness’s claim that Hicks was the only shooter.

Ultimately, the false witness testimony along with the failure of the prosecutor to disclose favorable evidence wrongfully imprisoned Hicks for 20.5 years.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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