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New Information From Recent Case Bolsters Claim Man Was Wrongly Convicted

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Rochester: New Information From Recent Case Bolsters Claim Man Was Wrongly Convicted
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"This guy has been sitting in prison for a long time, and he shouldn't be there."

In August of 2002, a home on First Street in Rochester went up in flames. Police would later discover the bodies of two people inside: Clara Sconiers and Thomas Reed. It was determined the two had been beaten to death before the fire was set.

Charles Pierre, Clara's then-boyfriend, was charged with the crime – first degree murder, second degree murder and arson. The District Attorney's Office even at one point considered the death penalty.

Pierre was tried and it took a jury less than two hours to convict him.

The house at 262 First Street no longer exists. It was there that a witness saw Charles Pierre fighting with the victim, and another witness saw him leaving the burning home.

"My client is an immigrant and doesn't speak good English," said attorney Van White.

White says Pierre's family contacted him early this year, asking for help.

"People made some assumptions based on what witnesses observed and made that logical, but canyon-sized leap, because he had an argument with her he must've killed her. There was no other evidence to suggest he was involved. He steadfastly maintained his innocence. And you know what's interesting, the First Street house, you know who was a resident there? Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boyd lived there," said White.

Darrell Boyd was accused of killing his neighbor Katharina Lawn in 2007. It was during that investigation that information surfaced related to Pierre's conviction.

Pierre, who is serving a life sentence at the Attica Correctional Facility, received a letter in November of 2013 from prosecutor Kelly Wolford. She tells Pierre "Ms. Boyd revealed to investigators that Darrell Boyd, her husband in 2002, told her that he was responsible for the murders at 262 First Street. Mr. Boyd told his then-wife that he killed two people with a baseball bat and set the house on fire."

The letter says that Boyd also told two incarcerated individuals that he was responsible for the First Street murders.

Boyd was convicted last week of killing Lawn. He beat her to death, then set her Merchants Rd. house on fire.

"The latest conviction suggests this is maybe his modus operandi."

The District Attorney's office said it started investigating the claims when it became aware of them in early 2013. That investigation, which includes Rochester Police, is ongoing.

Even after a conviction, the DA's Office is required by law to turn over any newly discovered information to a defendant. District Attorney Sandra Doorley says that was done with the letter. White says that was not done quickly enough.

"There is no prosecutor alive who wants to convict an innocent man, but right now we have to follow the procedure. We have to follow the law. We have to look into the reliability of this new evidence. Because we had reliable evidence, proof beyond a reasonable doubt that went before a court and was sustained by an appellant. We have to follow the process. We have to investigate," Doorley said.

Doorley was in 2003 the prosecutor in Pierre's case.

"If Mr. Pierre is in fact innocent, I will have no qualms about going into court, looking him in the eye and releasing him. Right now, I just want to make sure justice is served," Doorley said.

Van White filed a motion asking a judge to vacate Charles Pierre's conviction. That could lead to a hearing, where both sides will make their case.

The Rochester Police Department deferred all comments to the DA's Office.

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