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A miscarriage of justice... The Cy Greene Story

Trial judge concerned about the jury's verdict in Cy Greene's case.

Submitted by Cy Greene

Edited by Barbara Jean McAtlin, Justice: Denied Staff

On June 14, 1983, at the corner of Nostrand and Church Avenues in Brooklyn, New York, a forty-two year old man was stabbed twice in the chest. The man died from his wounds. His death was clearly a tragedy. Police officers responded to the murder by frantically burrowing into the area in an effort to find the perpetrator.

Luckily for the police officers investigating the crime, they had an eyewitness. The principal eyewitness was an associate of the victim who had been present at the time of the murder. The witness could only say there had been three or four accomplices who all stood at least six feet in height. He was unable to provide police investigators with any facial descriptions or outstanding characteristics of those guilty of the crime. A canvass of the area was done; police officers went from business locations to apartments in hopes of locating witnesses who would be able to provide a better description of the perpetrator's identity. Their efforts produced few developments.

With the hope of finding the people responsible for the crime becoming improbable, the police began rounding up those who were known as street hustlers (i.e., dope peddlers, robbers). In the course of their investigation the police arrested a suspect named Lenard Best. Somehow, before the police could question Best at the precinct, he managed to escape from the police vehicle while en route. Losing Lenard Best in such a manner was, of course, embarrassing and frustrating to the police department. They were unable to apprehend Lenard Best again, so they arrested his brother, Mark Best. At the time, it was implied that Mark Best was being arrested for his possible involvement in the crime committed. However, while being questioned, Mark Best somehow went from being a suspect to becoming a police witness. It was then claimed by Mark Best that he and his brother had nothing to do with the crime, but that he could identify those who were responsible.

Mark Best identified a young man named Cy Greene as one of the perpetrators involved in the June 14, 1983 crime. It seems that the detectives were not concerned at all by the fact that Mark Best had once been a suspect, nor did it any longer concern the detectives that his brother, Lenard Best, felt the need to avoid the police. Instead, the detectives were ecstatic and satisfied with the break of information in the case. There was still one "small" problem, the height of Cy Greene did not measure up to the height the eyewitness at the scene had given to police officers. Cy Green's height was only five feet one inch tall, not six feet tall, which is how tall the witness said the perpetrators were. Still, the police no longer viewed Mark Best or his brother as suspects.

On June 21, 1983, I was arrested and charged with the murder committed some seven days earlier. I was immediately taken to the police station and placed into a holding cell. While I was in the holding cell the principal eyewitness, who earlier was unable to identify any facial features of the perpetrators, had the opportunity to view me. This viewing took place before the lineup from which the principal eyewitness was to identify me. In the lineup, I was told to be seated, along with at least four other males. Since the main factor of the principal eyewitness' identification of the perpetrators was their height, conducting a lineup with the participants seated allowed for the witness to inaccurately pick out a person. It was clear from the principal eyewitness' earlier statements that he could not recall facial features, but in the lineup proceedings, this eyewitness was allowed to converse with another witness prior to their identifying me in the lineup. There was no attorney or other unbiased person present while the police conducted their fraudulent lineup identification.

The records at my trial dictated that the police investigation of the matter was tainted and questionable. First, the recovered knife, which had been used in the crime, was never introduced in the trial because it was learned that a veteran detective with more than 15 years on the force, had handled the weapon and evidence improperly.

It's always been said that officials with over ten years on the force should be given much credit as an expert in their field, however, here's a veteran detective who comes to the scene of a homicide and without wearing rubber gloves (which is the proper procedure) picks up important evidence. It's a known fact in law enforcement that once evidence is touched by more than one person, any fingerprints on it are rendered useless.

Testimony was also given that police officers had used the once familiar "intimidation tactic" to obtain information about the case from people in the area of the crime scene. One witness testified that he was threatened by police officers who said that he would come up with some information or he would be charged with the crime himself.

While on the witness stand, a police witness admitted that the arrest of Lenard and Mark Best had originally been to question them concerning their involvement in the murder and not as possible witnesses. As a matter of fact, Mark Best, the brother whose statement led to my arrest, never testified at the trial, instead, his earlier statements made to police officers were erroneously read into the trial. It was this same evidence - statement that the jury requested during its deliberations.

The principal eyewitness testified that while he was being escorted to the police precinct he was told by police officers that he would be picking out the person who had killed his friend from a lineup. Certainly a statement such as this made by police officers implied to the witness that one of the men in the lineup would be the perpetrator. Another important matter that came out during the trial was testimony from a police officer that while conducting their canvass of the area, some of the people interviewed provided descriptions of suspects. These descriptions could not have been me. This evidence (which might have helped prove my innocence) had been withheld until my trial. My defense attorney argued that this was a case of mistaken identity. To support the defense's position, a family member of mine testified that I was at home with family members at the time the crime was committed.

The jury heard the incredible evidence that was presented by the assistant district attorney and after three days of deliberations they returned with a verdict of guilty. How the jury found me guilty on such absurd evidence escapes intelligence. Perhaps the jury's lack of knowledge on the legality of trial evidence contributed to their finding of guilt. Maybe it was just that I, a black male, was simply and clearly denied my rights under the United States Constitution's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to a fair and impartial trial and that left the jury with no choice but to find me guilty. I can't possibly be the first black male whose rights have been violated.

In an October 13, 2000, New York Times article by Julian Bond and Wade Henderson, it was written that, "the national record on unequal treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system is discouraging." There are too many people sitting inside prisons who have been unfairly convicted. Once in a while we hear about someone being released after serving twenty or more years in prison for a crime that they did not commit. For instance, remember the case of Mr. Ruben "Hurricane" Carter? Hurricane Carter, a man who once had a promising boxing career, was charged with a double homicide in a New Jersey bar. He served nearly twenty years in prison before the courts reversed the error of his conviction and he was released. There are many more people with similar stories that have yet to be heard.

Since my incarceration I have always maintained my innocence. I have fought vigorously to regain my release. I have obtained sworn statements, one from Mark Best whose conscience ten years after the incident, got the best of him and "he confessed to committing" the crime on that day in June of 1983. I have obtained a petition with the help of my family with over 100 signatures of well-respected community leaders and business persons.

At one point, I was taken back in court on a C.P.L. 440.10 Motion (a legal way of challenging the legality of my conviction). The sentencing judge himself said that he had a problem with the evidence presented in my case. The judge even wrote a letter in my behalf to the New York State Parole Board professing his belief of my possible wrongful conviction and requesting that the board release me on parole.

The following is an excerpt from Justice Michael Pesce's June 30, 1998, letter:

"I am writing this letter to recommend early parole release for Mr. Cy Green because I was concerned about the jury's verdict. I thought the evidence was not as overwhelming as it appeared to the jury. I believe that the eyewitness' identification was weak, particularly the description of the assailant as someone six feet tall..."

Unfortunately, after serving 17 years for a crime that it is evident that I did not commit, the Board of Parole still refuses to release me. At this very moment, I am petitioning the federal courts in the hope that they take action to liberate me from this wrongful conviction. This case serves as a clear reminder of how our Constitutional rights are disregarded and mine is a predicament that could happen to anyone. Citizens must take action to insure that the interest we all hold in our rights remains protected or the price you pay might cost you your freedom!

In order to receive the legal assistance necessary to contest my conviction in the courts I will have to meet financial obligations. Anyone who is willing to assist in this matter, financially or otherwise, please contact me. It's time citizens took an active role in protecting our rights. I am in tremendous need of assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.

My outside contacts are:

Mother, Ms. J. Greene (718) 462-4914
Brother, Reggie Greene (718) 230-6245
Judge Pesce (718) 643-7086
Jim McCloskey (609) 921-0334

Cy Greene #85 A 3874
Mid State Correctional Facility
PO Box 2500
Marcy, NY 13403

©Justice: Denied

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