Warhit on track to be county judge

Indefatigable Greenburgh attorney Barry Warhit has been nominated by Gov. David Patterson to be a Westchester County Court judge.

Warhit, a longtime criminal defense lawyer who began his career as a young prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, would replace Judge Jeffrey Cohen, who moved up to Orange County when he was elected to the state Supreme Court last year.

Warhit has to be confirmed by the New York State Senate before he dons the black robe. He’s been a part-time acting judge in local courts, including White Plains City Court, where I once appeared before him with an expired vehicle inspection ticket. The look he gave me can only be described as “What are YOU doing here?!” But in all fairness, I received no special treatment. My ticket was dismissed with several others once we showed proof of inspection.

If approved, Warhit would have to run for judge in the next election to keep the job permanently. And he may already have competition. A Mount Vernon lawyer named Doug Martino is campaigning to get on the Republican and Conservative ballot lines. Whoever wins, I hope they give me good quotes at sentencings.

UPDATE: Irvington Village Justice Lawrence Ecker also has been nominated to serve as a state Supreme Court Justice, according to the governor’s office. He would replaced Joseph Alessandro, who was removed from the bench last year for alleged misconduct relating to a loan to his 2003 campaign. Ecker is a partner in in his own law firm.

Decision delayed in wrongful conviction case

tjndc5-5b3dn4w4bjklloe86jt_thumbnailWestchester County Judge Jeffrey A.Cohen has not yet decided if he will free convicted murderer Selwyn Days or keep Days in prison for decades to come.

Cohen was expected to release his decision tomorrow, six months after presiding over a wrongful conviction hearing to overturn Days’ conviction for the 1996 slayings of an Eastchester millionaire Archie Harris and his live-in home health aide Betty Ramcharan. Days was convicted of both murders and is serving 50 years to life.

Two of Days’ lawyers now say the case has been moved to Jan. 26 when Cohen, who will be a state Supreme Court justice in Orange County by then, could render a written decision or postpone the decision yet again.

Days’ new defense team says the conviction should be tossed out because of new testimony from four alibi witnesses who, together, place Days in North Carolina from Nov. 19 to 21 in 1996 – the time frame in which the slayings occurred. They also claim that new forensic tests performed on the knife that killed Ramcharan found DNA from the real killers – two unknown men. Investigators had never found forensic evidence linking Days to the crime scene.

But prosecutors said that all of the alibi witnesses had close ties to his mother, Stella Days, and should not be believed. They also argued that tiny pieces of random DNA on the murder weapon aren’t enough to dismiss the jury’s verdict – or ignore Days’ confession to the crime.

Days, now 44, was convicted largely due to a videotaped confession in which he told police he beat and stabbed the pair after confronting Harris about sex-abuse allegations lodged by his mother, a former caregiver. Days’ defense said detectives took advantage of his low IQ and coerced a confession from him that was a “disjointed, undeveloped account” of the crime. Manhattan defense lawyer Glenn Garber, who has taken the case as part of his Exoneration Initiative project, has accused Days’ trial lawyer of incompetence.

We’ll have to wait and see what Cohen decides.

Photo: Selwyn Days

Judge keeps Maddox rape/murder cases together

Today, Westchester County Judge Jeffrey A. Cohen denied a lawyer’s request to sever the cases against accused serial rapist Walter Maddox, who is facing life in prison in the rape and slaying of a 25-year-old woman at a Yonkers laundromat last month.

The ruling means Maddox, 31, will face one jury that will decide his culpability in the Dec. 8. slaying, as well as in two other brutal rapes during the summer near Yonkers’ O’Boyle Park.

Maddox, also from Yonkers, is accused of raping and killing Roberta Galicia-Lagos in the Yonkers Laundromat on Hawthorne Avenue, where she worked part time cleaning early in the morning. A co-worker found Galicia-Lagos’ body in the laundry’s bathroom. She had been strangled, and sexually assaulted.

Detectives investigating her homicide linked the case through DNA to two violent rapes in Yonkers where both victims had been strangled but survived. Authorities say Maddox dragged one woman to a secluded area in O’Boyle Park on June 30, raped her and choked her unconscious. A month later, he allegedly raped and choked another woman in an apartment just a few feet from the same park.

Maddox lived in the same southside neighborhood where he is accused of committing the crimes. He has bene held without bail since his arraignment on 18 felonies, including first- and second-degree murder, attempted murder, predatory sexual assault, rape, criminal sex act and assault.

He is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole.