Darryl Best was doing some work at the Bronx home of his uncle, fixing
an awning to make some extra cash, when a Federal Express truck pulled
up with a delivery.
Best, an African American man and father of five children, signed for
a package that had the correct address for his uncle-in-law, but when
he examined the package more closely, he found it was addressed to a "Linda
Williams." Best knew the Williams's indeed lived next door, but there
was no "Linda," so he hurried down the stairs to get the driver's
attention. It was then that the police nabbed him and charged him with
conspiracy to traffic in cocaine. Best never opened the package.
On October 23, 2001, Darryl Best was convicted of a class A felony under
New York's Rockefeller drug laws. Mandatory minimum sentencing will require
Best to serve 15 years to life in prison. He will not be eligible for
parole until the year 2016.
"The police knew there were drugs in the package," says Best's
wife, Wanda, who has been working with the New York advocacy group, Mothers
of the Disappeared, to bring attention to her husband's case. "Whoever
signed for the package is who they were going to arrest."
The package was sent priority overnight, which guarantees delivery by
10:00 AM. The controlled delivery took place at 1:10 PM, almost 3 hours
late. Someone expecting this package would have been at the address early
since FedEx delivery starts at 8:00 AM. Best arrived at his uncles house
at about 11:30.
Police had a no-knock warrant to search the premises, but they never went
in to check for other drugs, cash or drug paraphernalia. Wanda Best argues
that the arresting detective lied under oath when he claimed that Darryl
had a key to his in-law's Bronx home, and says the police failed to produce
any evidence to prove his assertion.
Furthermore, police found no identification that connected Best to the
Bronx location, because his residence is, in fact, on Manhattan's Lower
When the defense asked at trial why no audio-visual recordings whatsoever
were made of the arrest, detectives said it was a "judgment call."
In their experience, they claimed, drug dealers send packages to addresses
and intercept them before they arrive at their final destination.
"In our opinion," says Wanda Best, "whoever sent the drugs
must have singled out my uncle, because he's a 70-year-old man living
alone, and the reason they used the next door neighbor's name is because
their name was on the mailbox."
The package contained 16 ounces of cocaine. But all of the evidence, insists
Best, led away from her husband. "At the trial, everyone, even the
court officers, thought we would win. It was so clear he was innocent."
Kunstler Fund video.