It took 28 years, 11 months and 12 days for David McCallum to get a taste of freedom.
McCallum, who insisted he was not guilty of killing a man in 1985, was released from prison on Wednesday. Within hours, he was back at his mother’s home where she feted him with a home-cooked meal.
“The chicken she cooked tasted so different from the so-called chicken I had inside,” he told New York’s Daily News. “It tasted like freedom. Everything’s got freedom written all over it.”
But the moment was “bittersweet,” says McCallum, 45, who was unable to share the relief of being released with his friend Willie Stuckey, who was also convicted but died in 2001 while in prison.
Then 16 years old, the pair confessed to the kidnapping and slaying of Nathan Blenner, 20, whose body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in a Brooklyn park. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office determined the pair falsely confessed to the crime during a corrupt era, which DA Kenneth Thompson calls a “legacy of disgrace.”
“I think we should not have a national reputation as a place where people have been railroaded into confessing to crimes they did not commit,” Thompson told The Wall Street Journal.
After a thorough review from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, the convictions for McCallum and Stuckey were removed, according to a statement from the DA’s office.
“After examining all of the facts and circumstances of the case against McCallum and Stuckey – the verdict against who was based entirely on their confessions – the convictions cannot be sustained,” it states. “The CRU investigation concluded that the confessions were false and not supported by physical or testimonial evidence.”
The case gained national attention after a lengthy campaign was waged, which included the 2014 documentary David & Me.
“I believed good things could come if I was patient and that’s a very hard thing to do while you’re incarcerated,” he told the Daily News.
For now, McCallum is keeping his head up as he notices most people have their heads buried in computers and cell phones, which he doesn’t plan on getting anytime soon. “Someone told me you can’t really survive without it,” he said.