A jury will get to hear Selwyn Days’ incriminating statements when he is re-tried for a third time in the brutal 1996 slayings of an Eastchester millionaire and the man’s home health aide, a judge ruled last week.
Acting State Supreme Court Justice William A. Wetzel denied motions by Days’ defense lawyers to suppress statements that Days made to police on Feb. 15-16, 2001. The judge said Days had a “full and fair opportunity” to litigate all the issues at a suppression hearing in 2002 and that the defense’s argument of newly-discovered evidence was “without merit.”
Days’ defense team also lost their request to have an expert testify about false confessions. The judge wrote: “(S)uch testimony has been held to be inadmissible by New York courts. New York courts have held that false confessions and circumstances surrounding such confessions are within the understanding of the average juror.
However, Wetzel did order a “limited purpose” hearing to determine if two of Days’ fellow inmates were acting as agents of law enforcement when Days allegedly made incriminating statements to them while behind bars. The defense claims the inmates elicited information from Days to get their own sentences reduced.
Days, now 45, has been incarcerated for nine years, since he was arrested in the killings of Archie Harris and Betty Ramcharan. He was convicted of both murders in 2004 after his first trial ended with a hung jury.
That conviction was overturned last year, when four defense witnesses, including a magistrate judge and a police officer, testified that they saw Days in Goldsboro, N.C., between Nov. 19 and 21, 1996, when it is believed the victims were killed. Following the hearings, Judge Jeffrey Cohen ruled that Days’ trial lawyer had not done enough to investigate an alibi: that he was in North Carolina when the crime was committed. He also granted Days’ claim of ineffective counsel, finding that defense lawyer Christopher Chan had failed to take advantage of DNA evidence to raise reasonable doubt.
The bodies of Harris, 79, and Ramcharan, 35, were discovered in Harris’ Berkley Circle home Nov. 21, 1996. Harris was on a blood-soaked carpet next to a bloody baseball bat in his bedroom; Ramcharan was in a bathroom, next to a kitchen knife, a plastic bag over her head and an electric cord around her neck.
Days’ mother, Stella, used to work for Harris and accused him of sexually abusing her several months before the killings. Her son, who had a lengthy criminal record, was not arrested until February 2001, after he violated a protection order by going to his ex-girlfriend’s home. After hours of questioning by detectives, Days acknowledged going to Harris’ home to confront him about the sexual abuse allegations. He said Harris hit him with a baseball bat and that he took the bat from the man after pretending to be unconscious. He said he hit Harris with it and stabbed him, and then slashed Ramcharan in the throat when she walked into the room.
No forensic evidence linked Days to the bloody scene; prosecutors relied on the videotaped confession. Assistant Westchester County District Attorneys Perry Perrone and Christine O’Connor will prosecute Days in his third trial. Days will be defneded by a team of lawyers led by the Manhattan-based Exoneration Initiative.
He is due back in court on May 21.