Man Seeks $50M in Wrongful Conviction Case

( – A New York City man is suing the city and two police officers after spending 27 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Thomas Malik was jailed for the horrific 1995 killing, but last year prosecutors admitted the case against him was based on false confessions. Now he wants $50 million in compensation.

On November 26, 1995, 50-year-old Harry Kaufman was working the night shift at a Brooklyn subway station. As he sat in the tollbooth, assailants squirted gasoline through the coin slot and then threw in a match, burning Kaufman to death. One witness identified Malik, who was a teenager at the time, as one of the attackers in a lineup. A jail informer also linked Malik to the crime.

Finally, two detectives — Stephen Chmil and Louis Scarcella — obtained Malik’s confession, sealing his fate. He was convicted of the killing along with two others, Vincent Ellerbe and James Irons, and sentenced to 25 years to life.

There were some problems with the case, though. The lineup where Malik was identified used “problematic” procedures, and another witness insisted a different man was the real perpetrator.

The informer was so unreliable the court later banned his testimony from being used in evidence. Worst of all, Detectives Chmil and Scarcella seem to have specialized in obtaining coerced confessions; at least 17 other convictions based on their evidence have been overturned.

In July, after a review of the case by the Brooklyn District Attorney and the state’s Conviction Review Unit, a judge overturned the convictions of Malik, Ellerbe, and Irons.

Now Malik wants at least $50 million in compensation for the lost decades of his life. His lawyers say he suffered “mental and physical injuries” in prison, and they want the city and the two detectives to compensate him. Ellerbe and Irons are also looking for financial settlements.

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