US man cleared of murder after 29 years in jail

US man cleared of murder after 29 years in jail
Mr David McCallum was 16 when he was arrested in 1985.

A New Yorker who spent 29 years in prison for kidnap and murder walked free on Wednesday after a judge overturned his conviction, saying it was based on a false confession.

Mr David McCallum, who was 16 when he was arrested in 1985, broke down after Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Matthew D'Emic exonerated him. The packed courtroom broke into applause on hearing the ruling.

Mr McCallum and Willie Stuckey, also 16 at the time, were arrested for the Oct 20, 1985 kidnapping and murder of 20-year-old Nathan Blenner in Queens, New York.

The next day, children found Mr Blenner's body on disused land in Brooklyn. He had been shot once in the head.

The two teens were arrested and confessed to the crime. They were convicted the following year and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Stuckey died in prison.

Mr McCallum's mother sat next to him in court, gripping his hand and comforting him as the judge overturned the indictment.

She later left the court in tears, refusing to talk to the media, AFP reported.

Mr McCallum emerged from court with a smile and hugged his overjoyed family. "I feel like I want to go home, finally," he told reporters, admitting that he had at times lost hope of being freed.

"I'm very, very happy but I'm very, very sad at the same time," he said, adding he wished that Stuckey were walking free with him.

His first wish was to walk on the sidewalk, and then go home and enjoy his mother's cooking, he said.

He said: "My mum is such a great cook. She does it all very, very well, so I'm sure by the time we get home, I'll think of something."

His mother Ernestine, who rushed to embrace her son in the corridor, said she had been late because she was baking cakes and cooking her son's homecoming dinner. She said: "I kept praying and hoping for this day to come."

CONVICTED

A jury convicted Mr McCallum and Stuckey in October 1986 of second-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.

The Brooklyn district attorney's office launched an investigation in January and concluded after 10 months that their confessions were false and that there was no evidence linking the men to the crime.

Mr McCallum told reporters that he wanted to finish his education and speak out in public against wrongful convictions, which he feared would continue to occur.

He said: "It's a broken system but it doesn't mean it can't be fixed. I think people need to pay more attention to those individuals who cry for help."


This article was first published on Oct 17, 2014.
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