Never have I been so devastated by the loss of a political figure as in the untimely passing of Ken Thompson, Kings County District Attorney for only three years. It is through Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU) that David McCallum was released from prison on October 15th 2014. As all of us who were involved in David’s case from 2004-14 know, David would still be in prison were it not for Ken Thompson.
The story of David’s release began with Rubin Carter and ended with Ken Thompson. Both are now dead but their lives were certainly not lived in vain.
The suddenness of Thompson’s death reminds me of the brief period (the same three years) in office that ended when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. While the symbolic importance of a president far outshines the image of a district attorney, it may be fair to say that Thompson accomplished more on a local level than Kennedy was able to accomplish as president. In fact, Kennedy’s legend was enhanced by his death; his presidency short on accomplishments, like defusing the Cuban missile crisis, and perhaps more notable for misadventures like Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs invasion. Thompson’s CRU took off and functioned as it was meant to from day one. Many innocent people (twenty-one and counting) were released from prison. He established a principle we can only hope will be maintained in Brooklyn and copied throughout the USA: the truth is more important than the functioning of legal machinery. Thompson has a legacy but, still, he will be greatly missed and greatly mourned.
Among NY City and State officials, along with US legal VIP’s, David McCallum was the only exoneree invited to speak at the funeral. See the NY Post article below.
NY Times Editorial: