IN AMERICA / By BOB HERBERT
February 17, 2000
Dana Garner is a man who lies as easily as most people breathe. But he is more than a compulsive destroyer of the truth. Dispensing his lies like poison, he has become a menace to the criminal justice system in Brooklyn, and a destroyer of lives.
In 1998 I wrote a series of columns about a man named Jeffrey Blake,
who was serving a term of 36 years to life in prison for the murder of
two men in Brooklyn in 1990. Dana Garner said he had been an eyewitness
to the murders
Mr. Garner had not even been in New York when the murders occurred. Jeffrey Blake was innocent. He was freed from prison in 1998 after spending eight years -- more than a quarter of his life -- behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.
One week after the double murder that resulted in Jeffrey Blake's imprisonment
came another murder that Dana Garner said he had witnessed. He testified
in that case, too, saying he had just happened to see the killing as he
waited near a subway station for his mother. Here's what the embarrassed
office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes wrote in
In other words, Mr. Garner lied. A man named Rubin Ortega is in prison for that murder. Whether he is guilty or not, I can't tell you. But I know about another case, and it's as bad as the Jeffrey Blake saga.
On Tuesday I interviewed a man named Timothy Crosby in the Lower Manhattan office of his Legal Aid lawyer, Sara Bennett. He wore a beige suit, a black shirt and, under the circumstances, a remarkably even disposition.
"My first stop was the Downstate Correctional Facility," he said. "From there they sent me to the Elmira Correctional Facility. I stayed there for a few years. From Elmira I went to Green Haven, and then to Fishkill, and then Otisville. Otisville was my last stop. I did practically 12 years. Just about 12 years."
In 1988 Dana Garner told the police that Mr. Crosby was one of a group of men who had kidnapped and assaulted him.
"There actually was a kidnapping," said Ms. Bennett. "Garner escaped and ran to a police station."
Four people were arrested, including Mr. Crosby, who was picked up on a street in Brooklyn when Mr. Garner pointed him out to police.
Now we learn, after so many years, that Mr. Garner, as usual, lied.
Last month, in an extraordinary ruling, State Supreme Court Justice
Lewis L. Douglass overturned Mr. Crosby's conviction and ordered him released
from prison. The ruling came after a hearing in which Mr. Garner acknowledged
Justice Douglass wrote: "Dana Garner, the final witness at the hearing,
admitted that he had completely fabricated testimony for two murder trials,
identifying men as murderers even though he had not witnessed the crimes.
He noted in his ruling that in 1998 Justice Robert Kreindler had reversed Jeffrey Blake's conviction after learning of Mr. Garner's lies. Said Justice Douglass: "I similarly conclude that Dana Garner is a completely unreliable witness and where, as here, there is no other evidence connecting the defendant to the crime, I too grant the motion to vacate judgment."
The district attorney's office had planned to appeal Justice Douglass's
ruling. But yesterday when I asked why, a spokesman for Mr. Hynes said
the notice of appeal would be withdrawn. "We are not going to appeal,"
Mr. Crosby is free now and looking for a job. His father died while
he was in prison, and he said he worried the whole time that his mother
might die before he was released. "She's not sick or anything," he said.
"But, you know, tomorrow's not promised to no one."