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Williamsburg, NY - Man Accused of Murdering Charedi Man Argues His Way Out of Jail

Published on: December 24, 2010 07:47 AM
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Today, Jabbar Collins works as a paralegal at the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin in Manhattan. But for 15 years, he sat in prison, convicted of the 1994 murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack. Mr. Collins, who maintained his innocence, spent much of those 15 years in a computerless prison law library. Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street JournalToday, Jabbar Collins works as a paralegal at the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin in Manhattan. But for 15 years, he sat in prison, convicted of the 1994 murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack. Mr. Collins, who maintained his innocence, spent much of those 15 years in a computerless prison law library. Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal

Williamsburg, NY - Each morning for 5,546 days, Jabbar Collins knew exactly what he’d wear when he awoke: a dark-green shirt with matching dark-green pants.

The prison greenies of a convicted murderer, he says, were “overly starched in the beginning, but as time wore on, and after repeated washes, they were worn and dull, like so many other things on the inside.”

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For most of those 15 years, Mr. Collins, who maintained his innocence, knew the only way his wardrobe would change was if he did something that’s indescribably rare. He’d have to lawyer himself out of jail.

There was no crusading journalist, no nonprofit group taking up his cause, just Inmate 95A2646, a high-school dropout from Brooklyn, alone in a computerless prison law library.

“‘Needle in a haystack’ doesn’t communicate it exactly. Is it more like lightning striking your house?” says Adele Bernard, who runs the Post-Conviction Project at Pace Law School in New York, which investigates claims of wrongful conviction. “It’s so unbelievably hard…that it’s almost impossible to come up with something that captures that.”

Mr. Collins pried documents from wary prosecutors, tracked down reluctant witnesses and persuaded them, at least once through trickery, to reveal what allegedly went on before and at the trial where he was convicted of the high-profile 1994 murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack.

The improbable result of that decade-and-a-half struggle was evident on a recent morning in a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper. Mr. Collins sat in a small office he now shares, wearing one of the eight dark suits he owns, a white shirt with French cuffs, a blue-and-gray striped tie and a pair of expensive wingtips. “Every day is beautiful” now, he said, smiling. “I don’t have a bad day anymore. I think that my worst bad day out of prison will be better than my greatest good day in prison.”

On March 13, 1995, as Mr. Collins was led by officers through a side door of a Brooklyn courtroom to a holding cell, his mother let loose a wailing sound that he’d “never heard before or since.” Her son had just been convicted of murder.

He was 22, a father of three and facing at least 34 2/3 years behind bars. Three witnesses had implicated him in the midday shooting of Mr. Pollack as the rabbi collected rent in a building at 126 Graham Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Mr. Collins said he was home getting a haircut at the time.

To that point in his life, Mr. Collins had been drifting. His father died when he was 12 and his mother worked two jobs while also studying nursing. Under-supervised, he skipped school often, smoked a lot of pot and fathered the first of his children when he was 15.

When he was 16, he was arrested for a robbery. He says he was just waiting outside the store where a robbery took place. Mr. Collins accepted a youthful-offender adjudication under which he got probation and the arrest could eventually be purged.

Mr. Collins later obtained a general-equivalency diploma and took some classes at Long Island University. He was trying to transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice when he was arrested for Mr. Pollack’s murder.

During his trial, Mr. Collins recalls being mystified. “I felt like a child,” he says, “everyone talking over my head.” But hearing his mother wailing as he was taken away suddenly cleared his head. “You have a life of misery ahead of you,” he remembers telling himself. “The only way you’re going to get out is to become your own lawyer.”

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal 


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1

 Dec 24, 2010 at 08:11 AM zayin Says:

Where's Dick Wolf?
This can be an episode of Law & Order

2

 Dec 24, 2010 at 08:14 AM Anonymous Says:

District Attorneys and their assistants will never, but never, admit to wrongdoing, as everyone looks to protect their turf. We have seen time and time again, how detectives, who are anxious for convictions, will brow beat, harass and intimidate, questionable witnesses into false statements, in exchange for leniency for pending charges. Even when a civil settlement is eventually reached between Mr. Collins, and the city of NY and the state of NY, the latter two governmental entities, will admit no wrongdoing.

3

 Dec 24, 2010 at 08:21 AM Aron1 Says:

This account appears to be very plausible.
So, thank you, lead prosecutor Michael Vecchione and company. You succeeded in ruining lives of many people and allowed the real murderer to roam free. I hope Mr. Collins lawsuit exposes you for the fraud that you are.

4

 Dec 24, 2010 at 08:26 AM Anonymous Says:

The next time any of you are screaming for a gentile to be executed, remember Mr. Collins.

5

 Dec 24, 2010 at 09:30 AM Anonymous Says:

Besides for the falshehh aidim, what other evidence is there against collins?
why does the family still think he is guilty ?
is it because they sat through the trial, heard the testimony of the false witnesses, and never bothered to sift through the new information discrediting all the witnesses?

It sounds like he is probably not guilty, unless there is some other evidence?

6

 Dec 24, 2010 at 10:27 AM Truth Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

The next time any of you are screaming for a gentile to be executed, remember Mr. Collins.

Excuse me Mr. Liberal - Did you ever hear two wrongs don't make a right?!? One thing has nothing to do with another. Unfortunately, sometimes the police and prosecutors don't do their job - so let's let off all criminals from real punishment. I don't know al pi halacha if we are allowed to have the dealth penalty, but if not all murderers should be locked up for life, without any chance of parole! I'd like to see if someone did something to one of your family members, if you would still be singing the same Liberal tune!

7

 Dec 24, 2010 at 10:31 AM Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

8

 Dec 24, 2010 at 10:44 AM PrettyBoyFloyd Says:

Read John Grisham's book, An Inocent Man, this this stuff goes on so often

9

 Dec 24, 2010 at 11:00 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

yeah, thats definitly enough proof to convict him of murder and send him to jail for life. There is almost nothing more terrible than convicting and sending an innocent person to jail for murder. I dont know if this guy was actually guilty, but based on what i have read i believe he is innocent. Most murderers dont spend their entire time in prison going through legal documents to prove they are innocent unless they are in fact innocent. The prosecution clearly had no proof or anything close to proof he was the killer, and they essentially made up witnesses to send him to jail....a terrible injustice was committed by the prosecution office.

10

 Dec 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM benny the uncles nephew Says:

I believe that he guilty just he used the leagel system holes to get free

11

 Dec 24, 2010 at 11:38 AM Anonymous Says:

I guess this is a cold case that will never be solved. As hard as it was for Mr. Collins (wait for the movie!) this is tragic for Rabbi Pollack's family. His killer is still out there.

12

 Dec 24, 2010 at 12:03 PM Ina Says:

Mr. Collins says he was home getting a haircut at the time of the murder. So, then he had an alibi. How could he have ever been charged? Where is the testimony of the hairdresser? Perhaps this just isn't so.

Having said this, I am in awe of what this man managed to do while in prison.

13

 Dec 24, 2010 at 12:42 PM iib001 Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

As much as I would like to see the real killer caught, tried and punished this is not enough to convict!

14

 Dec 24, 2010 at 12:50 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

Its not beverly hills. Its bed stuy; It would happen to you many times too if you lived in the stuy

15

 Dec 24, 2010 at 01:13 PM FinVeeNemtMenSeichel Says:

Read Jay Salpeter's book "A Criminal Injustice: A True Crime, a False Confession, and the Fight to Free Marty Tankleff" and please, think of your own son(s). And never, NEVER, no matter how innocent you are, never say one word to police without a lawyer if you are ever unfortunate enough to be charged in a crime.

16

 Dec 24, 2010 at 01:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
zayin Says:

Where's Dick Wolf?
This can be an episode of Law & Order

glad to see that 15 years of a man's life is a joke to you.

17

 Dec 24, 2010 at 01:59 PM completely clueless Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

you really ARE a moron and am oretz.

Good you hid behind anonymous and no one will know what an idiot you are.

18

 Dec 24, 2010 at 02:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
benny the uncles nephew Says:

I believe that he guilty just he used the leagel system holes to get free

you apparently are an illiterate, why would we value your legal opinion at all when you can't read or write?

I meant the "leagel" system, sorry.

19

 Dec 24, 2010 at 02:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

Come on he was on drugs , dropped out of school at 12. Is'nt is funny that he uses . the same argument twice? He was just outside the store when the robbery took place and then again coincidently he was just taking a hair cut right near the escene of the crime when the murder happened. If it smells rotten it is. GULTIY!

Well, you smell rotten, but what language is "gultiy"? whatever it is, you are!

20

 Dec 24, 2010 at 03:59 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Truth Says:

Excuse me Mr. Liberal - Did you ever hear two wrongs don't make a right?!? One thing has nothing to do with another. Unfortunately, sometimes the police and prosecutors don't do their job - so let's let off all criminals from real punishment. I don't know al pi halacha if we are allowed to have the dealth penalty, but if not all murderers should be locked up for life, without any chance of parole! I'd like to see if someone did something to one of your family members, if you would still be singing the same Liberal tune!

It has everything to do with it, you right wing extremist. Up to 40% of death penalties are commuted or reversed nationally because of police or prosecutorial misconduct in gathering evidence- in other words lies. I wonder if you would be singing the same Right Wing mindless tune if one of your relatives was falsely put on death row!By the way-- when did I suggest criminals shouldn't be locked up?? Hedyot kofetz baRosh!

21

 Dec 25, 2010 at 11:54 PM Anonymous Says:

With the advent of DNA testing all this should be easier to determine.
Why was Rabbi Pollack alone when collecting rent? Any Jewish person doing the same in these neighborhoods is a fool and needs to bring armed guards along. You're not pulling in enough money to protect your life?

22

 Dec 26, 2010 at 01:50 PM Truth Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

It has everything to do with it, you right wing extremist. Up to 40% of death penalties are commuted or reversed nationally because of police or prosecutorial misconduct in gathering evidence- in other words lies. I wonder if you would be singing the same Right Wing mindless tune if one of your relatives was falsely put on death row!By the way-- when did I suggest criminals shouldn't be locked up?? Hedyot kofetz baRosh!

Mr. Liberal - I like the way you make up statistics to prove your crazy agenda. Most dealth penalities aren't carried through because of the liberal laws and esp. the liberal Judges. It isn't because of lies, you moron. Why don't you have your family member take a walk through Bed-stuy and then when they don't come out, please come back here with your liberal defenses of the poor criminal!

23

 Dec 28, 2010 at 11:36 AM Reb Yid Says:

Reply to #20  
Anonymous Says:

It has everything to do with it, you right wing extremist. Up to 40% of death penalties are commuted or reversed nationally because of police or prosecutorial misconduct in gathering evidence- in other words lies. I wonder if you would be singing the same Right Wing mindless tune if one of your relatives was falsely put on death row!By the way-- when did I suggest criminals shouldn't be locked up?? Hedyot kofetz baRosh!

First of all, "police or prosecutorial misconduct" doesn't mean "lies." It can mean acquiring evidence through improper means--in other words, the guy is guilty, they just obtained the evidence in a way that they shouldn't have. That might not be allowed under the law, but it doesn't necessarily bear on the accused's guilt or innocence.

Second, the concerns about improper executions are unfounded. There has never been a execution in the US later determined to be of an innocent man. Of course, there are a lot of websites that claim that this or that person was really innocent. But none overturned in a court of law.

24

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