Ken Thompson, the first African-American to be elected district attorney of Brooklyn, has died at age 50 of complications from cancer, his office said on Sunday.
As chief prosecutor of New York’s Kings County, which encompasses the New York City borough of Brooklyn, Thompson launched a high-profile initiative to review questionable murder convictions, some of them decades old.
It resulted in 21 people having their convictions overturned or dismissed over the past three years, the office said in a statement.
Before he was sworn in as District Attorney in 2014, Thompson served as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of New York. Among the cases he prosecuted was against former New York City Police Officer Justin Volpe over the 1997 beating and torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima.
“A lifelong New Yorker, Ken was known as an effective, aggressive civil rights leader - and a national voice for criminal justice reform,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
Thompson was born in New York City. He is survived by his wife of 17 years, Lu-Shawn Thompson, his two children, Kennedy and Kenny, and his mother, father, brother and sister, his office said.
(Reporting By Frank McGurty in New York and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Diane Craft and Alistair Bell)