Imagine being 16 years old and sitting in a police interrogation room without your parents or a lawyer present. As police investigators begin asking you confusing questions, you’re terrified and don’t understand what’s happening. After what seems like hours, you’re exhausted and your head is spinning with all of the details and information you’ve been told by investigators. Desperate to go home, you begin to agree with what investigators are telling you.
This scenario is one that plays out in police interrogations of juveniles and adults alike and, 29 years ago, resulted in two 16-year-old teen boys being convicted of murder.
In 1985, a 20-year-old man was kidnapped and murdered. Desperate to solve the case, Brooklyn police picked up two 16-year-old teens and grilled them about the circumstances of the crime. As a result, both teens confessed to the kidnapping and murder, however both subsequently recanted their false confessions.
There was no other evidence tying the two young teens to the crime. Despite the lack of evidence, prosecutors aggressively pursued the case and both boys, David McCallum and Willie Stuckey, were convicted of felony criminal charges related to kidnapping and murder and sentenced to prison.
Earlier this year, a review of the case, along with many other questionable convictions, was taken up by Brooklyn’s new District Attorney Kenneth Thompson. Speaking about McCallum’s case, Thompson admitted “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”
McCallum and Stuckey were recently exonerated and their convictions vacated. After spending the better part of his adult life behind bars, the now 45-year-old McCallum expressed sadness that his friend Willie Stuckey was not alive to share in his joy of justice finally being served. Stuckey died of a heart attack in prison in 2001.
David McCallum’s case highlights disturbing patterns of misuse of justice that were readily employed by Brooklyn’s previous D.A. Individuals who are suspected of committing a crime and face criminal charges would be wise to exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and immediately contact a criminal defense attorney.
Source: New York Daily News, “Wrongfully convicted Brooklyn man goes free after 29 years in prison, DA slams tactics of original prosecution,” Oren Yaniv, Oct. 15, 2014