Advertisement
Selwyn Days and his brother Stelwyn Days, moments after the jury verdict on September 12, 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of The Exoneration Initiative)

A man imprisoned for 16 years for a double murder is today free, after a fifth murder trial found him not guilty.

Selwyn Days had been arrested and convicted twice for the 1996 killings of Archie Harris, 79, and his home health aide Betty Ramcharan. But those two convictions were thrown out by the court, and two other trials resulted in hung juries.

Days was accused of stabbing Harris to death, and cutting and strangling Ramcharan, in Harris’ Eastchester home.

Days had been continually behind bars since 2001—four years after the murder—when he violated an unrelated restraining order, according to The Journal News.

The Exoneration Project attorneys who represented Days in recent years alleged that his eventual confession to the Harris and Ramcharan slayings was coerced by police.

Only the final 76 minutes of the interrogation was recorded, and the defense attorneys eventually convinced a jury that police had coached the confession before the videocameras began rolling. (The total interrogation lasted more than seven hours.)

A long interrogation, leading questions and Days’ limited intelligence made him at risk for a false confession, according to Richard Leo, an academic expert on police interrogation practices who works as the University of San Francisco School of Law, and who testified at trial. (Leo is noted for previous work on high-profile cases such as the 1989 “Central Park Jogger” case, as well as the “Norfolk Four” case in Virginia, among others.)

A psychologist also hired by the defense testified that sleep deprivation, medications Days was taking and his low IQ all helped to produce what they contended was a false confession.

No physical evidence tied Days to the scene. But the ex-girlfriend who had the restraining order called police anonymously the same day of his arrest in 2001 to tell them Days had twice bragged about escaping detection for the murders.

Harris was facing charges of sexually abusing Days’ mother, who had previously worked as his health aide, at the time he was killed.

No alternative suspects have ever been arrested for the crime. But The Journal News reports that Harris had been known to brag about keeping large amounts of cash in his home—and that Ramcharan had been named the beneficiary of his will prior to the killings. (Harris’ adult children instead inherited his money after she was killed along with him.)

The first trial for Days resulted in a hung jury.

The second trial resulted in a conviction which was thrown out because the defense attorneys did not adequately pursue Days’ stated alibi that he was in North Carolina at the time of the murders.

The third trial had another hung jury.

The fourth trial resulted in another conviction six years ago. But that was also overturned, because a judge did not allow the defense to present testimony from a false conviction expert. The prosecutors also apparently strayed from their stated timeline of when the crimes could have occurred.

During all these trials, Days remained imprisoned.

The Exoneration Initiative focuses on relitigating criminal cases that have no DNA evidence, like the Days murder case.

The Innocence Project, which instead focuses mostly on cases with DNA evidence, has recently focused some of its efforts on false confessions as part of what it calls “America’s Guilty Plea Problem.”

A newly-released Netflix documentary called “The Confession Tapes” profiles a half-dozen such confession cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Advertisement
Advertisement