Carter v. Harrison, 612 F. Supp. 749 (E.D.N.Y. 1985)
60-year-old Clarice Herndon was stabbed 23 times with a penknife on September 15, 1981. Her foster daughter, Delissa Carter, told police she didn’t know the man who came in the back door and killed her mother. Police didn’t believe her, and three days later, Delissa admitted it was her ex-husband, Nathaniel Carter, who killed Herndon.
Nathaniel Carter was arrested on September 19. He only met his court-appointed defense attorney twice, no more than 30 minutes each time. He was convicted on June 7, 1982. He got the maximum sentence—25 to life—in September.
People who knew Nathaniel were shocked—partly because of his mellow temperament, partly because he had no prior problems with the law, but mostly because nearly a dozen of them had seen him in Westchester County while the murder happened in Queens. Two of these alibi witnesses only spoke briefly with Carter’s court-appointed counsel and were not called to the stand.
During a 1984 reinvestigation, Delissa confessed in court that it was she—not Nathaniel—who killed Clarice Herndon. She did so under the promise of immunity. Nathaniel Carter, after 28 months in prison, went free. Delissa, after being handed $20 for bus fare, did the same.
Prompted by Carter’s faulty conviction, the NYPD formed a special squad of detectives who only investigate homicides.