With only an inch of hard evidence, this little known Queens ADA made international headlines by winning one of the most important criminal cases in Forest Hills history.
I've been holding off writing about this because everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Plus, I was away when most of it was going on, but it was easy to follow online thanks to the excellent reporting by the NY Times and Daily News (the Post was a distant third).
Why was it such an important case? Because had they gone free, the feeling of fear in that community (and of that community) would be overwhelming. Without a conviction, murder would seem legal 108th St.
Plus, when you think of the utter selfishness of the crime - a murder in full view on a Sunday in a children's playground. What if it had gone wrong. What if the bullets had come out he other end? What if there was a struggle? I won't even go into the psychological ramificaitons of playing hopscotch one minute and watching a man being shot to death the next.
This is a crime that had to be solved. For the Malakovs and for Forest Hills.
Leventhal presented his case masterfully. My favorite part being when everyone questioned why on the first day of cross examination, he didn't bring up the fact that she didn't hear the gun. Then spent 9 hours the next day on how she didn't hear the gun, slamming his hand on the jury box (which made every news account of the trial). Brilliant. I hope he writes a book about it and I hope the star witness gets a piece.
If you didn't follow the trial, go back and read the news accounts day by day. Fascinating.