Brooklyn DA’s Office Takes Up McCallum’s Case

On July 9th, 2014, Dr. Ron Sullivan of Harvard University, Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson’s hand-picked leader of the new Conviction Review Unit, met with Oscar Michelen (Cuomo LLC), Professor Laura Cohen of Rutgers University and, on skype, Professor Steve Drizin of Northwestern University’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. Also in attendance were Mark Hale, designated to look after the day-to-day operations of the Unit, along with Mina Malik. The purpose of the meeting was to give us a chance to present our case for the release of David McCallum, who has now been unjustly incarcerated for almost twenty-nine years. Twenty-nine years! Think about what that means!

We thought that we had reached the moment when we would be given the hearing that Rubin Carter had pleaded for from his death bed. Michelen had prepared a power point presentation, documenting the myriad problems with the confessions, the terrible legal assistance, and the suppression of evidence. The agenda of the meeting, however, was not what we had thought. We thought that we could lay out our case and the unit would go back and consider the merits of our presentation. They had, however, already decided to re-investigate the entire case from scratch.

On the one hand, this is truly wonderful; after all these years, we finally have law enforcement officials looking at the wrongful conviction in a systematic way. Admittedly, from our perspective and our long involvement, some amount of disappointment seeped in. What more could they need since the only thing tying McCallum to the murder was a false confession? In hindsight, we have to acknowledge that David’s incarceration has morphed from just a legal problem into a political one as well. How do you release someone from twenty-nine years of incarceration and not implicate a lot of other people involved in both the trial and the appeals process? And how do you explain to a family, that for all these years has believed that justice was served, that the case is not only problematical but flawed enough to overturn? The family of Nathan Blenner has to deal with the fact that their son’s murderers might never be found or, more to the point, might never be charged. At every turn, we learn more and more about the complexities of wrongful convictions and the amount of people whose lives are changed by a serious crime. This site has been set up to provide David with some bridge funding upon his release from prison. He will be entering a world that is foreign and unfamiliar, even threatening. He will need counseling. He will need to find work. He will need a place to live. Your generosity, however much or little, will be deeply appreciated, the funds well used.

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About ken

I am a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. I work with Dr. Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, with whom I published Eye of the Hurricane: My path from Darkness to Freedom (Chicago review Press, 2011), as Director of Media Relations and as an advocate for wrongly convicted prisoners. Other publication credits include Songs of Aging Children (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1992) a book of short stories about troubled youth, and Taking Steam, a play co-authored with the late Brian Shein, staged at New York's Jewish Repertory Theatre and Toronto in 1983. Life Without (Quattro Books, 2012) is a novella about a New York cab driver wrongly convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Gary Geddes (Lt. Governor's Award for Literary Excellence) described it as "one of the most brilliant and harrowing short novels I've read since I went on a John Hawkes binge."

2 thoughts on “Brooklyn DA’s Office Takes Up McCallum’s Case

  1. Hi Ken,
    How frustrating for you and the team and especially David. Presumably the timeframe for such a reinvestigation will be many months or even years – any chance of release in the meantime? We’ll keep following developments.

    • Not frustrating at all, John. They do not have the time or the resources to extend this. What they want to be able to do is to say to the victim’s family that the case is too problematical to leave David in prison. It will be a blow to them, of that you can be sure.

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