Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit – some of them had even been sentenced to death. These are their stories.
David McCallum and Willie Stuckey were both 16 when they were convicted of forcing a 20-year-old man into his Buick Regal at gunpoint in Ozone Park, Queens, killing him with a single gunshot to the head, then leaving his body in Aberdeen Park in Bushwick, Brooklyn. After being beaten by police and coerced into confessing, David McCallum and Willie Stuckey gave brief and contradictory confessions, each pinning the homicide on the other. They both recanted the confessions almost immediately and rejected offers to plead guilty in return for prison sentences of 15 years to life.
On October 27th, 1986, a jury convicted them both of second-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery and criminal use of a weapon, and they were each sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Mr. Stuckey died of a heart attack behind bars 16 years into his sentence in 2001, but Mr. McCallum persevered in trying to clear his name. After exhausting all of his appeals, Mr. McCallum’s attorney, Oscar Michelen approached Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, and in 2014 District Attorney Ken Thompson's office and the Conviction Review Unit completed their reviews of McCallum's case, finding that there was no DNA evidence, physical evidence or credible testimony to link Mr. McCallum or Mr. Stuckey to the abduction or killing of the victim. On October 15, 2014, David McCallum and the late Willie Stuckey’s convictions were thrown out at DA Thompson’s request, and David McCallum was freed after serving nearly 30 years behind bars.
In this special episode of Wrongful Conviction, Mr. McCallum is joined by Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez as well as attorney Oscar Michelen. Promoted by the late District Attorney Ken Thompson in 2014, Eric Gonzalez successfully guided the launch of several of the late DA Ken Thompson’s key initiatives, including the creation of the Conviction Review Unit, which has vacated over 20 unjust convictions to date and has been held up as a national model for other prosecutors’ offices. DA Gonzalez was sworn in as Acting District Attorney in October of 2016 after the passing of DA Thompson.