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More wrongfully convicted Brooklyn defendants released after decades in prison

11th Defendant Released Due to Faulty Evidence

October 15, 2014 By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo of David McCallum, who was released from prison on Wednesday after almost 30 years for a false murder conviction.
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The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced the release of yet another wrongly convicted defendant on Wednesday — a statement that is becoming all too familiar.

“In the interest of justice, I [asked] the court … to vacate the murder convictions of David McCallum and Willie Stuckey,” D.A. Kenneth Thompson said in a released statement. 

McCallum and Stuckey were convicted for the 1985 robbery, kidnapping and murder of Nathan Blenner and were sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life.  The conviction was largely based on confessions by the defendants, who were both 16 years old in 1985.

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“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 Associated Press late Tuesday.

 Attention was brought to McCallum’s and Stukey’s case after another wrongfully convicted individual—the famed boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter penned a letter to the New York Daily News.

“My single regret in life is that David McCallum of Brooklyn — a man incarcerated in 1985, the same year I was released, and represented by Innocence International since 2004 — is still in prison,” Carter wrote in February 2014, one month after Thompson took over as Brooklyn D.A.

“Knowing what I do, I am certain that when the facts are brought to light, Thompson will recommend his immediate release,” Carter prophesied.  

Carter died in April, unable to see his prediction come to light. The same can be said for defendant Stuckey, who died in prison and whose conviction will be posthumously overturned.

According to court documents, teenagers McCallum and Stuckey were arrested after 20-year-old Nathan Blenner was found shot dead in a park with his wallet gone in Brooklyn in October 1985. A witness in Blenner’s Queens neighborhood told the police that two men were seen pushing Blenner into his Buick Regal and driving away.

Blenner’s torched Buick was later found in Brooklyn.

When arrested, the young defendants pointed the finger at each other, giving confessions naming the other as the shooter. Both took back their confessions and claimed they were innocent.

Facts in Stuckey’s confession stood out as questionable, Thompson and the defendants’ attorneys noted. For example, defendant Stuckey told the police that three shots were fired when investigators only found evidence of a single shot. Also, the timing of the killing proved to be an issue. In his confession, Stuckey remembered the killing occurring close to or at night; the medical examiner ruled that Blenner died at about 3 p.m.

“After a thorough and fair review of the case by my Conviction Review Unit (CRU) and the Independent Review Panel, I have concluded that [McCallum’s and Stuckey’s] convictions should not stand, and that Mr. McCallum should be released from prison,” Thompson’s Wednesday statement read. 

The McCallum case provides clues that a deeper investigation into past Brooklyn convictions may be underway — or at least needed.

The D.A.’s CRU started in 2012 and has focused the majority of its attention on cases investigated by former New York City Police Detective Louis Scarella.  Of the 90-plus convictions currently under CRU review, more than half, or at least 57, are convictions on cases investigated by Scarcella.

McCallum’s and Stuckey’s cases, however, were not Scarcella cases.

Although narrowed in its focus, Thompson’s CRU has made significant strides in righting the wrongs of previous administrations. A total of 11 defendants have had their convictions overturned by the efforts of the D.A.’s CRU and a few other Brooklyn defendants have fought and secured innocence on their own accord, including Jabbar Collins. Collins — who recently settled a suit against the city and state for a total of $13 million — alleged that the misuse and abuse of prosecutorial powers lead to the his unjust conviction and more than 20 years lost behind bars. 

McCallum’s case was the subject of a documentary titled “David & Me” produced by Markham Street Films, which was reviewed by the Eagle in June

— The Associated Press contributing


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