The Queens district attorney on Thursday moved to overturn the conviction of a man convicted of fatally shooting a 14-year-old girl on a bus in 2013.
Shamal Capers of Queens, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Authorities released him on Thursday after eight years in prison for murder.
“If there is to be justice in the criminal justice system and public trust in its outcomes, we have an obligation as prosecutors to pursue the facts wherever they may lead,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement. “As credible new evidence is presented that undermines the integrity of the convictions against these men, we cannot allow miscarriages of justice to persist.”
DeAjah Robinson, 14, was returning home from a friend’s birthday party on a Q6 bus in Jamaica when she was shot on the bus in what Katz’s office said was a “gang-related dispute” unrelated to Robinson. .
A gang member, Kevin McClinton, was arrested and later convicted of murder, authorities said. Sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
A year later, Capers was arrested based on the account of another gang member, Lyle Jappa, who testified that McClinton took a gun and opened fire on Capers’ bus before continuing the shooting. The district attorney’s office said Jappa received “significant leniency” on unrelated charges.
Debevoise & Plimpton, a New York City-based law firm, later provided evidence to the Queens District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which launched an investigation into the conviction. He revealed that he knew recorded phone calls between Jappa and his mother from 2014 were providing false information to prosecutors.
Ultimately, Jappa recanted his testimony to prosecutors.
“My thoughts today are with Dejah Robinson’s family,” Katz said. “This resolution may not be easy for them to accept, but they can take comfort in knowing that Kevin McClinton, the perpetrator, will be in prison for a long time, perhaps the rest of his life.”
The Queens District Attorney’s Office also moved to overturn the sentence of a second man who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a February 2013 robbery in Queens Village. Cell phone data showed he was miles away from the crime scene at the time of the crime, authorities said.