January 24, 2023

Law firm overturns 22-year-old murder conviction

Donnell Perkins spent almost 22 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Yesterday, our firm won a state-court motion to vacate his conviction after a seven-year battle with the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office. We proved that the single eyewitness in the case had misled the jury about his eyesight and that his identification of our client could not be trusted.

As reported today by the New York Law Journal, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dena Douglas vacated our client’s 2001 murder conviction following a hearing that consumed 22 days from June to December 2022. Although the eyewitness’s description of the suspect didn’t fit our client, police used a highly suggestive lineup to produce an identification, which became the only evidence at trial. At the time Donnell was identified, he was just 17 years old and had no criminal record.  

In 2015, firm principal Joel Rudin, troubled by the weakness of the evidence, agreed to represent Donnell pro bono. He and associate Jacob Loup learned from the eyewitness’s ex-wife that, contrary to the eyewitness’s trial testimony that he wore glasses only for reading, in fact he wore thick-lensed eyeglasses in 1999 for all activities. He wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time of the murder, and thus his ability to clearly see the perpetrators and to reliably identify them was substantially impaired.

We brought this evidence to the Brooklyn D.A.’s Conviction Review Unit, but when the CRU didn’t act, we filed a 440 motion on Donnell’s behalf. At the hearing, Joel and Jacob—along with co-counsel Ron Kuby, who represented Donnell’s co-defendant, Kareem Mayo—presented testimony from the ex-wife, an ophthalmologist, and a psychologist specializing in eyewitness identifications. You can read the decision granting the motion here.