Back in 1985, David McCallum was 16 years old, but spent the following 29 years in prison for a false confession on kidnap and murder. He walked free yesterday after a judge overturned his conviction, saying it was based on a false confession.
McCallum and Willie Stuckey, also 16 at the time, were arrested for the October 20, 1985 kidnapping and murder of 20-year-old Nathan Blenner in Queens.
The next day, children found Blenner’s body on disused land in Brooklyn. He had been shot once in the head. The two teens were arrested shortly afterward and confessed to the crime. They were convicted the following year and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Each suspect initially blamed the other for the murder during videotaped interviews, but both quickly recanted. Their confessions had contradictions and what the Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, called “false fed evidence,” or details about the crime that appeared to have been provided by others.
McCallum and Stuckey had long maintained their innocence. Stuckey died of a heart attack in 2001 at age 35, but McCallum, who is now 45, persevered in his attempts at clearing his name.
His efforts were buoyed in February when Rubin (Hurricane) Carter, a former professional boxer who had been wrongly convicted of murder in 1967, then spent 19 years in prison before being freed, wrote a deathbed letter to Thompson asking him to investigate the case. In the letter, Carter wrote of McCallum and Stuckey: “Their two confessions, gained by force and trickery, are not corroborated even by each other; they read as if two different crimes were committed.”
“After a thorough and fair review of the case by my Conviction Review Unit and the Independent Review Panel, I have concluded that their convictions should not stand,” said Thompson, referring to a group of his staff and a group of outside lawyers who review old cases. “Mr. McCallum should be released from prison.”
David McCallum’s first wish was to walk on the sidewalk, and then go home and enjoy his mother’s cooking, he said. He had no special requests, saying that after 29 years of prison food, anything would be wonderful.
Since Thompson took up his post in January, a special unit headed by a Harvard law professor is reviewing dozens of cases, mainly homicides.
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