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DA Investigation Exonerates Innocent Man


07/17/2013

Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita, III announced today that an indictment charging  23 year-old Charles Tubbins with several crimes, including Murder in the 2nd Degree, has been dismissed upon a motion bought by the District Attorney’s Office on behalf of the People of the State of New York.

The Buffalo Police Department arrested and charged Tubbins with 2nd degree murder and other crimes in connection with November 12, 2012 botched robbery and fatal shooting of Rashiene Carson at a Getty gas station in Buffalo’s Riverside neighborhood. The principal basis for the arrest was the identifications of Tubbins by several eyewitnesses who selected his photograph from arrays shown to them by Buffalo Police Department investigators. Tubbins declined to testify before the grand jury and was subsequently indicted.

Detectives from the Buffalo Police Department Crime Scene Unit also collected forensic evidence from the crime scene. Included were swabbings of the door handle of the automobile in which the victim was sitting and which his assailant could have touched. The District Attorney’s Office requested that evidence be analyzed for DNA by the Erie County Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory.

The DNA results were provided to the District Attorney’s Office after Tubbins’ indictment. Notably, the genetic profile from the specimen on the door was not that of Tubbins but of someone else.

Because the District Attorney’s Office had been supplied with potentially exculpatory evidence, The District Attorney promptly notified both the court and Tubbins’ counsel of the DNA results. Although not yet exonerated (at that moment investigators did not know if the DNA belonged to the killer or someone else who may have touched the car)  the District Attorney’s Office also agreed that Tubbins’ bail should be significantly reduced in light of the new evidence. The agreed upon bail reduction resulted in Tubbins’ immediate release from custody.

A re-investigation of the case, launched by the District Attorney’s Office, was promptly undertaken. Investigators determined that the unknown person who opened the vehicle’s door was the likely assailant. The genetic profile taken from the specimen on the door handle was submitted to the New York State DNA databank and matched a convicted felon. That suspect, who resembles Tubbins, was then interviewed. The suspect initially denied any knowledge, let alone participation, in the homicide. The suspect then made incriminating admissions after being confronted with the DNA evidence. This evidence was presented to another grand jury, resulting in a new indictment.

DA Sedita stated the following:

“The principal duty of a prosecutor is to do justice. That means it is our duty to not only convict the guilty but also to exonerate the innocent. Accordingly, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office has adopted professional prosecution standards which are utilized in the review of each felony case before it is prosecuted. Although these rigorous but fair prosecution standards have been disparaged by a handful of critics, scores of innocent citizens have been exonerated (usually before an indictment) because of our review process.  In this case, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, upon being supplied with additional evidence, spearheaded the effort to exonerate the person wrongfully accused and to bring the true assailant to justice.”

The District Attorney also credited Buffalo Police Homicide Squad Detectives for working with the new evidence to find the true killer and demonstrate Tubbins’ innocence.