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David McCallum

All New York CIU Murder Exonerations
On October 20, 1985, 20-year-old Nathan Blenner was forced into his car and abducted in Queens, New York. The following day, Blenner’s body was found in Aberdeen Park in Brooklyn with a single gunshot wound in the head. His car was found on October 22 when a security guard reported that a group of youths set it ablaze on Fulton Street in Brooklyn.

Police canvassed Blenner’s neighborhood and found a woman who said that about an hour before the crime, she was washing her car on the street about a block from Blenner’s residence. She told police that two black men walked by and one said she had a nice car. She replied that if her car were stolen, she would “know where to look.” The woman said the men were in their 20s and one had braided hair. One was 5 feet 10 inches tall and the other was 5 feet 6 inches tall.

The woman went through several police books of mugshots of robbery arrestees, but she did not identify anyone.

Not long after, police questioned Terrence Heyward and Herman Mumford, who were both in their 20s, about a series of carjackings in Brooklyn that happened prior to Blenner’s abduction and murder. They were questioned about the Blenner case, but denied involvement. Heyward, however, told Detective Joseph Butta that he knew that a 16-year-old named Willie Stuckey had recently given a gun to James Johnson and claimed that the gun “had a body on it,” meaning it had been used to kill someone.

Johnson led police to Stuckey and a friend of Stuckey’s, 16-year-old David McCallum.

McCallum and Stuckey were brought in for questioning on October 27, 1985. Detective Butta said both confessed to carjacking and killing Blenner, although their confessions did not match. Stuckey said McCallum killed Blenner and shot him three times. McCallum said Stuckey shot Blenner and fired just once.

Stuckey also confessed that he and McCallum had approached a woman who was washing her car just before the carjacking and commented that she had a nice vehicle.

Both said Blenner was shot at night. However, the medical examiner said an autopsy indicated Blenner was shot during the day shortly after he was abducted.

McCallum and Stuckey recanted the confessions almost immediately and claimed that detectives had slapped them. McCallum also said that the detectives threatened to hit him with a chair unless he confessed.

Both rejected offers to plead guilty in return for prison sentences of 15 years to life and they went on trial in Kings County Supreme Court in October 1986. No physical or forensic evidence linked them to the crime. There were no witnesses who said they saw either one commit the crime. The primary evidence against them was their confessions. On October 27, 1986, a jury convicted them both of second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and criminal use of a weapon. They were each sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Their appeals were denied. Stuckey died of a heart attack in prison in December 2001. McCallum continued to file legal challenges to his conviction, but was unsuccessful.

In 2011, McCallum’s attorney, Oscar Michelen, asked Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes to submit the case to his Conviction Integrity Unit. Subsequently, DNA tests were performed on cigarette butts and a marijuana roach that had been found in Blenner’s car (Blenner had prohibited smoking in his car). The DNA profile of a man with a criminal record was identified, but neither Stuckey’s nor McCallum’s DNA was found.

Michelen’s re-investigation of the case revealed the police interrogation of Heyward and Mumford, which had not been disclosed to the defense attorneys for McCallum and Stuckey prior to their trial.

In August 2013, Hynes’s office informed Michelen that the office had concluded there was no evidence to support McCallum’s claim of innocence.

In the fall of 2013, after Hynes was defeated in his bid for re-election, Michelen wrote to Kenneth Thompson, the newly elected District Attorney, imploring him to take a fresh look at the McCallum case.

In April 2014, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a well-known middle-weight prize fighter who was cleared of a wrongful conviction for murder in 1985, died of prostate cancer. Before he died, Carter sent a letter asking Thompson—as a dying wish—to review McCallum’s case anew.

On October 15, 2014, Thompson moved the Kings County, New York, Supreme Court to vacate the convictions of both McCallum and Stuckey. The motion was granted and the charges against both men were dismissed. McCallum was released immediately.

Thompson said the confessions clearly were false. He also was harshly critical of his predecessor, Hynes, for failing to seriously address claims of innocence. Thompson declared, “I inherited a legacy of disgrace with respect to wrongful convictions.”
McCallum subsequently filed a claim for compensation with the New York Court of Claims and in 2016 received $3.7 million.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/16/2014
Last Updated: 6/20/2019
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Kidnapping, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1985
Sentence:25 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:16
Contributing Factors:False Confession, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes*