Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson on Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014 announced that he will move to vacate murder and other charges against David McCallum and the late Willie Stuckey, who were convicted in the 1985 kidnapping and murder of Nathan Blenner. The decision follows a thorough review of the case by the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit.
“In the interest of justice, I will ask the Court today to vacate the murder convictions of David McCallum and Willie Stuckey. 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 and that Mr. McCallum should be released from prison,” said District Attorney Ken Thompson.
David McCallum and Willie Stuckey (who has since died) were just 16 years old when they were charged with the kidnapping and murder of Nathan Blenner, 20, who was kidnapped on Oct. 20, 1985, in front of his South Ozone Park, Queens home. Blenner’s body was found the next day by children playing in an undeveloped lot adjacent to the rear of Aberdeen Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He had been shot once in the head.
McCallum and Stuckey were arrested shortly thereafter and confessed to the crime. They were convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, following a jury trial, on Oct. 27, 1986.
They were both sentenced to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison.
After examining all of the facts and circumstances of the case against McCallum and Stuckey – the verdict which was based entirely on their confessions – the convictions could not be sustained. The CRU investigation concluded that the confessions were false and not supported by physical or testimonial evidence.
From the totality of the circumstances, the CRU and the Independent Review Panel concluded that the jury’s fact-finding ability as to both defendants was significantly corrupted, and additionally finds clear reasonable doubt as to the truth and accuracy of the confessions, which were the sole bases of the defendants’ convictions.
To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit, headed by Harvard Law Professor Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr., has resulted in nine convictions being vacated, and one appeal being dropped. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 17 convictions are just and will not be recommended to be vacated. Approximately 100 cases are pending review.