Featured Story

Attorneys call for client’s release after learning disgraced prosecutor withheld evidence at murder trial

Attorneys for a convicted killer who was prosecuted by disgraced former assistant district attorney Glenn Kurtzrock filed a motion calling for his release from prison Tuesday after they uncovered more than 160 pages of withheld evidence in the case, they said.

Jairon Gonzales-Martinez, 33, has been serving a 31 years to life sentence at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, NY since he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013. But his attorneys say his conviction was only obtained after Mr. Kurtzrock, who resigned after being caught withholding evidence at a Flanders murder trial in 2017, deliberately failed to disclose video-taped interviews and witness statements. 

“The judgement against [Mr. Gonzales-Martinez] was procured by the misrepresentation and fraud on the part of Suffolk County prosecuting attorney Glenn Kurtzrock in that 167 pages of case related documents … were intentionally and deliberately withheld from the defense,” reads a motion filed Tuesday morning by attorneys Michael Brown and Danielle Coysh.

In a telephone interview, Ms. Coysh said covers were ripped off investigators’ notebooks and pages were stapled together in an elaborate attempt to withhold certain information from Mr. Gonzales-Martinez and Mr. Brown, who defended him at trial. 

Among the previously undisclosed evidence was documentation that a trial witness had identified another man as the killer after viewing a photo array, according to the motion. That information “was critical to this prosecution” because that witness was the only person at trial to testify that he observed Mr. Gonzales-Martinez commit the murder, the motion states. That same witness also said he knew the killer by a nickname used by the man in the photo he selected in the array.

Mr. Gonzales-Martinez was convicted of beating a man to death with a pipe during an altercation at a Brentwood pool hall in June 2011. The motion filed Tuesday seeks to vacate that conviction.

Mr. Kurtzrock, who opened a private criminal defense practice following his downfall as a prosecutor, is currently serving a two-year suspension from practicing law in New York State — a penalty fellow attorneys who have sought his disbarment have called “too light.” 

Mr. Kurtzrock’s indiscretions first came to light during the trial of Messiah Booker, who had been charged in the killing of Demitri Hampton, a Riverhead man shot to death during a home invasion at a house where he had been staying with family in Flanders. 

Facing the possibility of life in prison for murder at trial, Mr. Booker was instead convicted of burglary and weapons charges and was released from prison last August after serving more than five years from the time of his arrest, parole records show. Three co-defendants avoided trial and faced even lesser sentences.

Nearly a year after the Booker trial ended, an internal review by the Suffolk DA’s office of another Kurtzrock case revealed he had committed similar violations in the trial of a man convicted of a murder in Amityville. Shawn Lawrence was six years into a 75-years-to-life prison sentence when he was released after the DA’s investigation into his case.

In their motion, Ms. Coysh and Mr. Brown say it was also evidence later turned over by the DA’s office that revealed evidence had also been withheld at Mr. Gonzales-Martinez’s trial.