Report by Brooklyn DA Office Reveals 25 Wrongful Convictions: The ’63 Case of Dylan Gold

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesEric Gonzalez

By Linh Nguyen

BROOKLYN – Eric Gonzalez, the Kings County District Attorney in New York, compiled a report detailing the first 25 wrongful convictions identified by the Conviction Review Unit (CRU) since 2014. These wrongful convictions dated back to 1963. Working with the Innocence Project, the report was released this month.

The summary details the mechanics behind convictions and factors that contribute to exonerating a wrongfully convicted criminal defendant. These factors include false or unreliable convictions, eyewitness misidentifications, witness credibility issues, nondisclosure of favorable evidence, police conduct, prosecutor conduct, defense conduct, new evidence and expert consultations.

THE 1963 CASE OF DYLAN GOLD: In 1963, Dylan Gold, a Black man, pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years to life; after nine years in prison, the Conviction Review Unit recommended that Gold’s plea be withdrawn due to problematic testimonies and a changed law that added substantial protections for criminal defendants.

For Gold, the factors that led to his commutation and exoneration were false or unreliable confessions, eyewitness misidentifications, nondisclosure of favorable evidence, police conduct, prosecutor conduct, defense conduct and new evidence.

Gold was charged with murdering a local artist in the artist’s home in front of the artist’s family. Though Gold maintained his innocence throughout most of the trial, he later pled guilty to avoid the death penalty. When he attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, saying that the allocution, or statement to the court, was false, the court denied the motion and his conviction was upheld.

The report finds that the evidence against Gold is questionable. For one, it was presented improperly at times and without adequate disclosure to the defense. For this reason, Gold was confronted with the pressure of facing the death penalty if the jury convicted. This led to his false confession.

Furthermore, Gold’s allocution was inconsistent with other evidence and testimony. The major inconsistencies included the positioning of Gold and the victim at the time of the shooting, his demeanor during the shooting and how and where the murder weapon was discarded. Despite the allocution’s inconsistencies with other evidence and testimony, the court and prosecution still accepted it.

“To what degree the prosecutor in this case knew whether the plea allocution by Gold was false is not knowable now,” the report said. “However, just as law enforcement has an obligation to scrutinize the truthfulness of a confession made to police, prosecutors cannot accept a plea allocution that they know to be false.”

As for eyewitness misidentification, the CRU found significant limitations on the witness’s ability to observe and perceive the events in question in Gold’s case, because his case involved a cross-racial identification. Gold was a Black man and the victim’s wife was white. According to the report, cross-racial identifications are known to have particular reliability problems.

In the line-up, the CRU suspected that the police directly suggested to witnesses whom to select. This is called police coaching. After a witness did not identify Gold, the police spoke with her and directed her to the “tall one” in the lineup and asking her if he was the perpetrator. The CRU believed that the questioning led to prompting. The witness did not identify Gold until three days later.

In many ways, the police failed to justly conduct an investigation in Gold’s case. They denied him the right to a lawyer, saying he did not need one. Gold was also pressured to lie. One detective believed Gold was innocent and that another person was involved in the murder. The detective pressured Gold into implicating the other suspect, but Gold refused to do so. The detective allegedly said he would have no problem getting the other suspect to implicate Gold. Then, the other suspect testified against Gold.

The prosecution also did not disclose statements made by the victim’s wife, which had potential to show bias. This information would have been helpful to the defense because this witness’s identification of Gold was the most powerful evidence against him. Therefore, withholding this information would have created a basis for him to question her credibility.

Shortly after Gold was convicted, procedural safeguards to which the accused are entitled changed significantly. There were further protections for criminal defendants in police investigations and trial proceedings so that wrongful convictions could be avoided.

Without the misconduct in the case and the change in law, the CRU found that “had Gold gone to trial after those changes, he may well have prevailed and likely would not have felt compelled to plead guilty.”

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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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