Brooklyn, NY – The lawyer for a Williamsburg resident whose conviction in the 2013 early morning beating of an aspiring fashion designer was overturned by an appellate court called the decision a disturbing lesson on the misuse of DNA evidence.
Mayer Herskovic, the only man to stand trial in the assault on Taj Paterson that left the then 22 year old bruised, bloodied and blind in one eye, was sentenced to four years in prison in March 2017 and was facing a maximum 15 year sentence, as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2ydTkGu).
Herskovic’s lawyer, Donna Aldea, filed an immediate stay of execution of judgment that kept him out of jail while the appeal was pending.
The decision to overturn Herskovic’s conviction came on Wednesday, with the appeals court ruling that the evidence presented was insufficient to charge Herskovic, let alone convict him.
“The problem with the case was that there was no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses that actually saw my client there,” Aldea told VIN News. “Video surveillance showed the three main people that were identified by my client as the ringleaders but he wasn’t one of them.”
A sneaker belonging to Paterson that was recovered a week after the incident was found to contain a minute amount of DNA that the prosecution attempted to link to Herskovic.
Aldea argued that the genetic material obtained was insufficient for accurate testing and its composition could not be definitively linked to a single individual, leaving the appellate court to overturn the case based on their conclusion that Herskovic’s guilt could not be established beyond a reasonable doubt.
While DNA evidence can be pivotal in many cases, in this instance misunderstanding of the science involved tarnished the reputation of an innocent man, ruining years of his life.
“He was portrayed as a monster on the headlines of multiple papers, as a racist and a homophobe, but those allegations didn’t stand up in court,” said Aldea. “We have to understand the science involved so that we can understand its limitations or this powerful tool becomes very dangerous.”
Aldea said that while Herskovic was grateful for the appellate court’s decision and looking forward to getting on with his life, he was felt that both he and Paterson had been wronged by the system.
“Neither of them got justice and I think that society is a loser when you have a system that does that, because it is wrong on every level,” said Aldea. “It is wrong to convict an innocent man and put him through something like this and it is wrong and a travesty not to provide justice for the victim.”