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Judge: Michelle Johnson
Court: Supreme Court, Queens County, New York
Plaintiff's Attorney: Richard A. Brown, District Attorney of Queens County, Kew Gardens (Jack Warsawsky of counsel), for plaintiff.
Defendant's Attorney: Reginald M. Towe, Forest Hills, for Armond McCloud, defendant.
Legal Aid Society, Kew Gardens (Robert M. Baum and Kenneth Deane of counsel), for Reginald Cameron, defendant.
Description: Bronx, New York criminal defense lawyers represented Defendant charged with murder.
167 Misc. 2d 61 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1995)
"At approximately 11:30 P.M. on August 4, 1994, Kei Sunada, a Japanese exchange student, was shot to death on the 4th floor stairwell of 97-15 Horace Harding Expressway in the Lefrak City Development in Queens. Four days later, detectives investigating the homicide were informed that an individual, arrested on an unrelated robbery, claimed to have information about the crime.
The individual told the detectives that he had overheard a conversation in a local candy store indicating that a person called Junior, who drove a light-colored Oldsmobile with the words "Head Crack" or "Headcrackers" on the front window, was responsible for the homicide. The informant added that Junior had two good friends named Reggie and Kendo.
Apparently recognizing the names, the detectives secured photographs of Reginald Cameron and Kendo MacDonald who were suspected in prior robberies in the building where the homicide occurred. Both were believed to be wanted on pending robbery complaints and, in fact, a wanted poster for Cameron was on display in the security office at Lefrak City.
As it turned out, although 19-year-old Reginald Cameron had been arrested twice before for robbery and had one case still pending, he was not then wanted by any law enforcement agency in connection with any crime. Kendo MacDonald, however, was apparently being sought on an open, unrelated robbery charge, and was then on probation.
In any event, at approximately 3:30 P.M. on August 8, 1994, detectives went to Lefrak City in search of Reginald Cameron, Kendo MacDonald, and the person known as Junior. At first, their efforts were unsuccessful, but when they returned to the area at approximately 7:00 P.M., Detective Joseph Croce spotted Cameron standing with his father and a Lefrak security guard on 57th Avenue.
Croce approached and immediately took Cameron into custody. When Cameron's father asked the reason for the arrest, Croce told him that his son was suspected in a robbery and would have to stand in a lineup. The father responded that Cameron had an attorney and that he would notify her.
Cameron's father was referring to Elizabeth Pruser, a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society who was representing Cameron on a pending robbery case and who had represented him on an earlier, dismissed robbery charge. At 7:32 P.M., Cameron's father called Ms. Pruser and left word on her office answering machine that his son had been rearrested.
Meanwhile Detective Croce brought Cameron into the Lefrak security office and placed him in a holding cell. The detective then received a radio transmission that police had located the suspect Oldsmobile that allegedly belonged to Junior. Croce, Detective Alquimides Arroyo, and other officers kept the vehicle under surveillance until four young men approached it. The police stopped them and quickly determined that one of the men was Kendo MacDonald and another was the owner of the vehicle, Armond McCloud, who was known as Junior.
McCloud was frisked without result. When he could not produce papers for the car, he was handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle for transport to the 110th Precinct. MacDonald was also taken into custody. The two other young men were briefly detained and released.
Detectives returned to the security office to retrieve Cameron. As they were walking him to a police vehicle to take him to the precinct, his father approached and repeated that his son had an attorney. He said that he had called her and would do so again. The detectives responded by giving him the precinct's telephone number and telling him to ask for Detective Gonzalez who was in charge of the case.
Cameron's father next called McCloud's mother to tell her of her son's arrest. He then went to the 110th Precinct but was not permitted to see his son. At 8:54 P.M., he called Ms. Pruser's number again, this time leaving word on her machine that his son was at the 110th Precinct. He then left for work, calling the precinct periodically throughout the night in an attempt to get additional information about his son.
At the precinct, Cameron, McCloud, and MacDonald were taken to separate areas where they were uncuffed and offered food and drink. Each was told that the police were seeking information regarding the August 4th homicide. Each claimed to have no knowledge of the crime.
Sometime after midnight, Detective Mary Ann Herbert entered the room in which Kendo MacDonald was seated with Detective Ruben Martinez. Detective Herbert began a conversation with MacDonald, asking him about his family and his job. He told the detective that he worked as a baggage handler at Kennedy Airport. He also revealed that he was on probation, and he expressed concern that his predicament might affect his probationary status and his participation in a community service program.
The conversation then turned to the homicide, and Detective Herbert advised MacDonald of his constitutional rights. When MacDonald said that he had heard about the incident, the detective asked him whether he had been in the building at the time of the crime. MacDonald stated that he had, and then gave the detective an account of what he had seen, first orally and then in writing.
He said that he had been standing in the lobby of the "Peru" building with Cameron, McCloud, and a young woman when they saw a "light skinned Asian guy" carrying "a bag with pockets" waiting at the elevators in the "Colombia" building. Cameron and McCloud told MacDonald to "chill" and then followed the Asian man into the elevator. A few minutes later, they came running down the stairs. McCloud was tucking a gun into his waistband and said that, as he had been "trying to open the door of the stairs", he shot "the guy". MacDonald ran out of the building with them and saw Cameron discard a wallet.
MacDonald said that he spoke with Cameron a few days later and told him that shooting the man had been stupid. Cameron explained that he had gotten the man's wallet but McCloud believed that the man had more. When McCloud tried to search him, however, the man began fighting. McCloud shot him, and then he and Cameron ran down the stairs.
At approximately 2:15 A.M., Detective Herbert entered the room in which Cameron was seated. Without naming the source of her information, the detective told him what she knew about the circumstances of the homicide. Cameron then agreed to speak with her about the incident.
The detective first advised him of his Miranda rights, reading from a printed form. He expressed his understanding of the rights and his willingness to speak to the detective, and he initialled and signed the Miranda form.
Cameron then made an oral statement, telling Detective Herbert that, after he and Junior entered an elevator in the Colombia building with a "Chinese" man, Junior tried to rob the man and then shot him. Cameron expressed remorse over the shooting but claimed to have had no prior knowledge of the gun or of Junior's intention to commit the robbery.
Thereafter, Carlos Gonzalez, who was the assigned detective in the case, entered the room. He asked Cameron if he had been given his rights. Cameron said that he had, but Detective Gonzalez administered the rights again, using the same Miranda form. Cameron waived his rights again, and repeated his account orally for Detective Gonzalez. He then agreed to put his statement in writing and did so in the presence of Detectives Herbert and Gonzalez. He also said that he would be willing to make a videotaped statement to the District Attorney. He asked only that he be kept away from McCloud.
Later, at approximately 4:00 A.M., Detective Gonzalez began speaking with McCloud. In the presence of Detective Herbert, he advised him of his constitutional rights, reading from a printed form and recording his answers. McCloud expressed his understanding of the rights and agreed to speak with the detective. He initialled and signed the Miranda form.
Detective Gonzalez then told McCloud that he knew exactly what had happened and that "everybody" was telling him what McCloud had done. He said he understood that it was probably an accident, and he invited McCloud to give his own account. The detective said that he would let McCloud think about it and would return in five minutes.
When Detective Gonzalez reentered the room, McCloud gave him an oral statement, saying that he, Cameron, and MacDonald followed the "Chinese" man into the elevator and tried to rob him in the 4th floor hallway. The man resisted, however, and assumed a fighting stance. When the man threw a karate kick, McCloud's gun accidently went off and the man was shot. McCloud repeatedly said that he had not meant to shoot the man.
In the presence of both Detectives Gonzalez and Herbert, McCloud reduced his statement to writing. He then signed it, as did the two detectives. McCloud also agreed to give a videotaped statement.
Later that morning, Assistant District Attorney Kim Marcus arrived at the precinct. At 8:05 A.M., she notarized the written statement of Kendo MacDonald who swore to its truth. Thereafter, she took videotaped statements from both Cameron and McCloud, each of whom was again advised of, and waived, Miranda rights.
Sometime between 9:15 A.M. and 9:20 A.M., as Cameron was giving his videotaped statement at the precinct, Elizabeth Pruser arrived at her office and retrieved the messages Cameron's father had left the night before. She called the precinct, leaving word that she represented Reginald Cameron.
Now indicted for murder and related crimes, both Cameron and McCloud move to suppress their statements."
"A review of the case found their confessions were unreliable because they were elicited by a detective connected to two cases involving false confessions - the "Central Park Five" rape case in 1989 and the murder in 1990 of a tourist in town to attend the U.S Open tennis tournament."
"This scar on my face is not going to change, the death of the people I never got to see anymore, they can't bring those moments back," Cameron said. "So yeah they didn't right a wrong, they admitted a wrong."
"Since its creation in 2020, the Conviction Integrity Unit has vacated 102 convictions."
Outcome: Defendant was found guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. Defendant exonerated and released from prison.