An innocent Brooklyn man, who has spent the last 29 years behind bars for murder, was freed Wednesday when a New York judge overturned his conviction.
“I want to go home, finally,” David McCallum, 45, told reporters outside the courthouse, according to the New York Daily News.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because I’m walking out alone. There’s someone else that is supposed to walk out with me but unfortunately he’s not,” McCallum said of his friend Willie Stuckey who died in prison in 2001.
Stuckey and McCallum were convicted together for the 1985 murder of Nathan Blenner and sentenced to 25 years to life. They were 16 years old at the time. The convictions were based primarily on the testimony of one eyewitness and confessions that the two later recanted.
The New York Times reports that Mark Hale, an assistant district attorney, told State Supreme Court Justice Matthew J. D’Emic Wednesday that the testimony from the witness was questionable and that the confessions were “the product of improper suggestion, improper inducement and perhaps coercion.”
McCallum’s release is one of a recent spate of similar cases in which Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s office has sought to overturn bad convictions.
At a press conference regarding McCallum’s case, Thompson criticized his predecessor.
“When I walked through the doors of this office in January, I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful conviction cases,” Thompson said, according to CBS News.
McCallum’s lawyer, Oscar Michelen, said he contacted former DA Charles Hynes’ conviction integrity unit but his requests for help were ignored.
“Our pursuit of justice for David fell on deaf ears,” he said. “They basically told us, ‘Call us when you find the real killer.’”
Hynes was defeated by Thompson in an election last year. Many cite the growing wrongful conviction scandal as a reason for his defeat.
So far Thompson’s office has had 10 convictions overturned, two of them posthumously.
Blenner’s sister, Deborah Blenner, said she had mixed emotions about McCallum’s release, saying she doesn’t feel as though justice has been served.
“Nobody is going to say, ‘I want innocent people to go to jail,’ but I don’t feel they’re fully transparent in evaluating this case,” she said. “It’s like they retried the case, only there’s no opposition.”
Thompson said at the press conference that his office would continue to work on overturning wrongful convictions as he becomes aware of them.
“I think that the people of Brooklyn deserve better and I think we shouldn’t have a national reputation of a place where people were railroaded and convicted of murders they did not commit,” he said.
Photo Source: AP