DNA evidence frees 2 Brooklyn men convicted in 1992 triple murder

Posted at 7:50 PM, Feb 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-06 21:50:41-05
By Haley Draznin


(CNN) — Two Brooklyn men who have spent the last 21 years in prison for three murders that DNA evidence suggests they did not commit were released Thursday on consent of the Brooklyn district attorney.

Anthony Yarbough, 39, and Sharrif Wilson, 37, were arrested in June 1992 in the slaying Yarbough’s 40-year-old mother, his 12-year-old sister and another 12-year-old girl in a Coney Island housing project.

“In this case, my office examined newly discovered scientific evidence that was not available at the time of the trial,” Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson said in statement to CNN. “My obligation under the law is to determine whether this new information, had it been known and presented at trial, would have been more likely than not to cause the trial jury to return a different verdict.”

In 2013, new DNA evidence from under Yarbough’s mother’s fingernails matched sperm from the 1999 unsolved rape and murder of Migdalia Ruiz of Brooklyn, according to an investigation by the Medical Examiner’s office.

Yarbough and Wilson were already incarcerated when the 1999 rape and murder occurred, according to Adam Perlmutter, Wilson’s attorney.

“Based on this new evidence, I believe a jury would have been more likely to return a different verdict,” Thompson said.

Zachary Margulis-Ohuma, Yarbough’s attorney, is glad justice has finally been served.

“Anybody looking at this evidence with an open mind would see that there is no chance in the world that Tony murdered his mother and these two little girls,” Margulis-Ohuma said.

According to Margulis-Ohuma, this case was “easy” with such “obvious evidence of innocence.” Margulis-Ohuma hopes Thompson will devote the resources in the future to investigate the “harder” cases.

Yarbough was just 18, and Wilson only 15, when they were accused of murder.

Yarbough came home after a night out and discovered the victims choked to death with electrical cords and stabbed multiple times. The two young girls had been partially undressed, according to Perlmutter. Yarbough’s mother, Annie, his sister Chavonn Barnes, and Chavonn’s friend Latsaha Knox were killed.

Brooklyn detectives placed Yarbough and Wilson into separate interview rooms and coerced false confessions from the two teens, who were later convicted in separate trials.

Yarbough was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison.

Wilson was offered a deal by the district attorney’s office for a nine-years-to-life sentence, but his case was disputed after he wrote Yarbough’s family in 2005 saying that he had lied at the trial.

“I’m feeling really blessed right,” Yarbough said. “I was extremely anxious and nervous. I didn’t know what was going to happen. There were so many setbacks.”

When asked about his relationship with Wilson, Yarbough said he has no animosity.

“I’m happy that he’s out. I wish him and his family nothing but the best,” Yarbough said.

Yarbough says he does not know what his next step will be. At this time, after years behind bars, Yarbough is happy to move on.

“It was hard to keep my hopes up, but God is good now, I’m out now, I’m free, thank God,” Yarbough said.

CNN’s Rande Iaboni contributed to this report.

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