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$3.5 Million Settlement to Former New York Prisoner Convicted Due to Perjured Testimony

The City of New York has paid $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought by an innocent man who spent 12 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of attempted murder. The conviction was obtained by a prosecutor who “knowingly present[ed] perjured testimony.”

While the conduct of the prosecutor in the conviction of Shih Wei Su was at issue, the civil rights complaint filed on Su’s behalf stated that the wrongful conduct “was much more than that of a single young prosecutor. It was perpetuated and ratified by high level officials in the Queens District Attorney’s Office.”

Su was convicted of the attempted murder of Richard Tan and Lawton Ki, who were shot and seriously wounded at a Queens pool hall on January 4, 1991. Initially, Su was not implicated by Tan and Ki or by their friend, Jeffrey Tom, who claimed to be present during the shooting.
The prosecutor overseeing the case, Linda Rosero, thought the case was weak; however, her supervisor challenged her to pursue it anyway. A few months before Su’s trial, Tom pleaded guilty to extorting money from a restaurant owner by instilling fear. In return for a sentence of probation as a youthful offender, the Queens District Attorney’s Office required Tom to testify against Su.

The record of that plea hearing was sealed by the court, and Su’s attorney was never advised of the plea deal. Before trial, Rosero misled Su’s defense counsel into thinking there was no deal. Tom was a key witness during the trial, saying Su gave an order to the assailant to shoot his two friends. He then “blatantly lied by falsely denying” that the prosecutor or judge had made “any promise” regarding his sentence in the extortion case.

When Su appealed his conviction the prosecution stated, “The record available on appeal suggests that the People and prosecution witness Tom fully disclosed the disposition of Tom’s pending criminal case.” Su received the help of Le-gal Aid Society attorney Katheryne M. Martone in late 1998 to review his conviction.

Martone successfully managed to unseal Tom’s plea hearing, revealing his perjured testimony at Su’s trial. The prosecution then tried to use procedural rules to dismiss Su’s post-conviction petitions. Finally, on July 11, 2003, the Sec-ond Circuit Court of Appeals granted Su’s habeas corpus petition due to Tom’s perjury and the prosecution’s misconduct. See: Su v. Filion, 335 F.3d 119 (2nd Cir. 2003).

Su was released on November 5, 2003 after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to retry him. When Su filed his civil rights complaint due to his wrongful conviction, he attached a memorandum summarizing 84 cases that had resulted in reversals due to misconduct by Queens prosecutors.

The state agreed to settle Su’s lawsuit for $3.5 million, which included attorney’s fees. He was represented by New York City attorney Joel B. Rudin. See: Su v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NY), Case No. 1:06-cv-00687-RJD-CLP.

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Related legal cases

Su v. City of New York

Su v. Filion