Feb. 27, 2017
Everton Wagstaffe was wrongfully convicted of the rape, kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Negron in 1993. Mr. Wagstaffe’s conviction was based primarily on the testimony of Brunilda Capella, a 25-year-old, drug-addicted sex worker who claimed that she had seen Mr. Wagstaffe pull the victim into a Buick Skylark driven by Reginald Connor. It was later revealed, however, that the car had been parked at a church during the time that Capella claimed she had witnessed the kidnapping. The owner of the car testified that she had told the police this fact prior to Mr. Wagstaffe’s conviction, but the police didn’t write any reports of the interview. It was also revealed that Capella had been regularly providing information to the police at that time—remarkably, she testified for the prosecution in 20 cases. The Innocence Project consulted on the case and aided in testing foreign hairs found on the victim’s body for DNA, which revealed that the hairs had not come from Mr. Wagstaffe or Mr. Connor. The ruling to dismiss their charges, however, was primarily based on a revelation that prosecutors had buried evidence that Mr. Wagstaffe himself uncovered that police had targeted him before even speaking with the informant who provided critical testimony against the two men. In 2014, his conviction was ultimately vacated after serving 23 years in prison.