Nearly one year ago, Colin Warner came back to Flatbush. For anyone in prison for 21 years, it would be a moment to celebrate. But for Warner, 39, it was also a time to mourn–he had been convicted of a murder he never committed, and had to somehow restart the life he left as a teenager.
Warner was fortunate in one regard: Where the legal system failed him, his good friend Carl King came to his rescue, painstakingly performing the investigation that Warner’s public defenders never could. But now, as they attempt to seek restitution for Warner’s ordeal, Warner and King are learning that wrongly convicted people get few apologies from the state that scripted their fate. For New Yorkers erroneously sentenced to jail, there are no funds for special government compensation, no mega-charities helping them readjust to normal life. New York does have a law that is supposed to make sure the wrongfully jailed get financial help, but the awards are tiny compared with the kind of money lawsuit plaintiffs get every day in civil court. This fall, the state attorney general’s office gave notice that it’s contesting Warner’s $92 million claim. Any loss would be more than just Warner’s: He and King are planning to use the money to start an organization that would conduct investigations on behalf of poor accused or convicted defendants who contend they’re innocent–investigations that currently almost never take place.
Also in the January issue of City Limits, on newsstands now…. Increasingly, immigrant garment and factory workers are trying on a different kind of suit–in the courts. But does the temptation to litigate divert advocacy groups’ energies from the organizing work they were born to perform?… Fort Greene is increasingly a neighborhood divided, especially where the NYPD is concerned. Responding to pressures from brownstone residents, police go to great lengths to contain crime–in the housing projects on the north side of Myrtle Avenue. Middle-of-the-night apartment searches and arrests for loitering are just some of the tools that keep housing project residents in their place…. Mayoral control of the schools, a takeover Mayor-elect Bloomberg vows to make, promises many things–but as other cities have learned, one thing it won’t do is take the politics out of education.