In 1985, David McCallum and Willie Stuckey, both 16, confessed to killing 20-year-old Nathan Blenner and dumping his body in a vacant lot in Bushwick. Both were convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 to life. But DNA evidence contradicted their accounts, and their confessions were found to be coerced. Today Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson announced that he will vacate their convictions and set McCallum free, though it's too late for Stuckey; he died in prison in 2001. [UPDATE 2:28 p.m.: McCallum was just freed]
“We’ve concluded that the confessions were false, and they were false in large part because these 16-year-olds were fed false facts,” Thompson told the AP.
Thompson's decision comes from the findings of his Conviction Review Unit, which has so far helped vacate nine wrongful convictions and stopped one appeal.
Per the DA's release:
From the totality of the circumstances, the CRU and the Independent Review Panel concluded that the jury’s fact-finding ability as to both defendants was significantly corrupted, and additionally finds clear reasonable doubt as to the truth and accuracy of the confessions, which were the sole bases of the defendants’ convictions.
The lead detective in the case has since died.
In an op-ed for the Daily News, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who spent 19 years in prison due to lying witnesses and prosecutorial misconduct, wrote that his dying wish was that McCallum be freed.
Attorneys for McCallum, who is now 45, told the AP that he is reacting with “disbelief, combined with just utter joy."
David McCallum just released by a judge almost 28 years to the day he was convicted for a murder he didn't commit. He wept.
— James Ford (@jamesfordtv) October 15, 2014
Convictions vacated. McCallum is sobbing, head down, on the defense table. Stuckey's mother (who stood in for dead son) comforting him.
— Oren Yaniv (@OrenYaniv) October 15, 2014