Alvin Bragg asks that two men convicted of murdering a French tourist be set free

November 1, 2023

Eric Smokes and David Warren were sent to prison 36 years ago after the two men were convicted of robbing and killing an elderly French tourist.

Yet according to the website Gothamist, Manhattan District Attorney is now seeking to have their case thrown out. 

Tourist died after being beaten by muggers in Times Square

Seventy-one-year-old Jean Casse was visiting New York City in January of 1987 when he was attacked by a group of muggers in Times Square.

Witnesses described seeing Casse being robbed of his wallet and knocked to the ground, resulting in serious injuries to his head and neck that ultimately claimed his life.

The pair had prior run-ins with the law, and both were charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, and second-degree robbery. Smokes was also charged with a count of first-degree manslaughter.

Several witnesses recanted their testimony

Although the pair claimed they were at a nightclub located several blocks away when Casse was murdered, authorities contended that Smokes punched the victim while Warren rifled his pockets.

Several teenagers who were at the scene later testified against Smokes and Warren, after which they were found guilty on all counts.

However, the two men have always maintained their innocence and unsuccessfully sought to have their convictions overturned.

They pointed to the fact that several of the witnesses later recanted their testimony along with studies on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.

Letter sent to judge asking for conviction to be vacated

Terri Rosenblatt serves as chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office Post-Conviction Justice Unit, and she recently contacted Justice Stephen Antignani regarding the case.

"The People do not take the decision to consent to vacate two homicide convictions lightly," Rosenblatt wrote in a letter to Antignani earlier this month.

"However, based on the newly-discovered evidence, the People believe that the only legally correct and just outcome is to move to vacate these convictions," she added.

Gothamist noted that the Post-Conviction Justice Unit was created shortly after Bragg took office in 2021, and the unit's website says it seeks to offer "support to exonerees, as well as victims and survivors who may have been deprived of closure." It has asked that hundreds of convictions tied to police misconduct be thrown out.

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