A Kings County Supreme Court justice dismissed a Brooklyn man’s 2012 conviction for raping a then 32-year-old mentally disabled woman on Thursday, after a review conducted by District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s office discovered the defendant also suffered severe mental handicaps.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, who heads Gonzalez’s conviction review unit, moved to vacate the second-degree rape conviction against Livingston Broomes, 70, in Kings County Supreme Court on May 23, saying the defendant’s attorney failed to bring to light his client’s mental illness, dooming him to be prosecuted as an able-minded man.
“We find it is likely that had this disability of his been known that he likely would have been successful in defending himself against this charge,” Hale told Justice Matthew D’Emic. “However, his appointed counsel made no inquiry, no investigation, no effort to determine whether this defense was viable, and, frankly, it was his only defense to the charge.”
The defendant was arrested in 2011 after the victim became pregnant and told police that Broomes, then 63 years old, had forced her to have sex with him on several occasions, and he pleaded guilty to second-degree rape — a charge relating to intercourse with a person unable to provide consent — the following year.
Broomes completed a four-year prison sentence in 2014, and would have faced post release supervision until 2024, in addition to spending the rest of his life as a registered sex offender — unable to visit his son — if the conviction review unit created under Gonzalez’s predecessor Ken Thompson hadn’t probed the case, according the attorney who represented Broomes in his appeal.
“For the past few years Mr. Broomes’ life has been torn apart,” said lawyer Lisa Napoli. “His family was torn apart, he was separated from his child, who he wasn’t allowed to have contact with, and he served time in prison. Today the conviction review unit took a case that was difficult to take on their part, and they righted a wrong that was done all those years ago.”
In the district attorney’s review, investigators discovered that the Barbados-born defendant was involved in a motorcycle accident as a teen, which resulted in severe head trauma and left him in a coma for six months.
Relatives told investigators that Broomes was “slow,” and he was diagnosed with dementia a few weeks after his arrest — a fact his attorney never considered when strategizing a defense, according to Hale, who said that not only was the defendant likely unable to comprehend his rights, he was also incapable of understanding the issue of consent, or the victim’s inability to provide it.
Investigations by the district attorney’s review unit have resulted in 26 convictions being vacated, while upholding 80 convictions. There are 80 additional cases pending review.