2 men cleared of 1985 N.Y. killing

JENNIFER PELTZ
Associated Press

New York – — A man who served nearly 30 years in prison for murder was ordered freed Wednesday after prosecutors concluded he falsely confessed when he was 16.

David McCallum and the late Willie Stuckey’s convictions were thrown out Wednesday, at Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s request. Thompson said their convictions hinged on untrue confessions, made by teenagers, rife with inaccuracies and peppered with details seemingly supplied by police.

Their cause had been championed by ex-boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who became an international symbol of injustice when he got his a triple murder conviction vacated.

In dismissing the convictions, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic said, “The evidence available to the district attorney after the investigation sufficiently convinces the court that the judgments of conviction should be vacated.”

McCallum put his head on the defense table and sobbed, his body shaking, as he heard the judge’s words. Stuckey’s mother put her hand on his back.

He walked out of court with his arm around his mother, Ernestine McCallum, to applause from supporters and hugs from his relatives.

He called it “a bittersweet moment, because I’m walking out alone,” without Stuckey, he said.

After their 1985 arrests, McCallum and Stuckey admitted kidnapping and killing 20-year-old Nathan Blenner and taking a joyride in his car. They quickly recanted but were convicted of murder.

The admissions “were false in large part because these 16-year-olds were fed false facts,” Thompson said before the court date. No other evidence except the confessions tied the two to 1985 abduction and killing, he said.

McCallum, 45, has spent nearly two-thirds of his life in prison. Stuckey died there in 2001.

Theirs are the ninth and 10th decades-old convictions Thompson has disavowed since taking office this year, but the first in which he’s cited a false confession as the main reason.

The news stunned and dismayed Blenner’s relatives.

“We were led to believe, for 29 years, that they’re the killers. They confessed,” said his sister, Dr. Deborah Blenner, adding that the family found it troubling that a review by DA’s staffers and an advisory panel of outside lawyers could upend a jury verdict that appeals courts upheld.

The ailing Carter had been working on McCallum’s bid for exoneration for a decade after getting a letter from him. He wrote a Daily News piece in February expressing his “final wish” — a fresh look at McCallum’s conviction.

“My aim in helping this fine man is to pay it forward, to give the help that I received as a wrongly convicted man to another who needs such help now,” wrote Carter, who died of prostate cancer two months later.

McCallum and Stuckey were arrested after Blenner was found shot dead in a park, his wallet gone, in Brooklyn in October 1985. McCallum and Stuckey gave confessions naming the other as the gunman but soon professed their innocence. The teens were convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison after a trial that featured their confessions and a witness’ testimony.