A man convicted of murder 13 years ago will get a new trial after a judge faulted Queens prosecutors for not correcting an eyewitness' false testimony that he received no financial benefits from the district attorney's office and failing to turn over all information related to the nearly $20,000 the witness received for living expenses.
"While the defendant has a deplorable criminal history, an honest application of the reasonable possibility standard as defined by appellate courts of this State compels the granting of the motion [to vacate the conviction] for the reasons set forth above based on the Rosario and Brady violations and the failure to correct false testimony," Queens Acting Supreme Court Justice James Griffin (See Profile) wrote in People v. Bedi, 4107/96.
The judge added that the "reasonable possibility" standard was satisfied when a defendanteven in the face of overwhelming evidence of guiltdemonstrated the undisclosed evidence "might have" contributed to the trial result and the error was not "unimportant and insignificant."
Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, said the office is "still studying the decision and we will either appeal it or retry the case or both."
The 59-page March 13 ruling vacates Petros Bedi's second-degree murder conviction in the 1996 shooting death of a man in an Astoria social club, allegedly over a drug debt.
Just before the start of trial, the prosecution turned over a one-page document labeled "Witness Security Program Confidential" that listed a series of payments to Serafim Koumpouras, identified in the document as John Doe. The payments totaled $2,000 and the document also listed $16,640 for a hotel from April 1999 to November 1999.
At trial, Koumpouras maintained under defense questioning that he and a girlfriend had paid for a seven-month hotel stay, and he did not know if the district attorney spent any money on his behalf.
Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Debra Lynn Pomodore, Koumpouras admitted that two detectives from the district attorney's office helped him relocate outside Astoria. In her closing, she called the witnesses "forthright," "open," "honest" and "accurate."
While in prison, Bedi, represented by Joel Rudin of Manhattan, obtained 38 pages of financial records from the district attorney's office that had not been disclosed to the defense before his conviction. They included 16 cash receipts signed by Koumpouras for meals, travel, rent and other items provided by the prosecution.
Bedi, who maintains his innocence, filed a motion pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law 440.10 to vacate his conviction, arguing that if the records had been produced at the time of trial he could have "made a strong case that this witness had been literally bribed for testimony" (NYLJ, Aug. 15, 2012).