New York Prisoner Exonerated after Serving 25 Years
On March 10, 2016, Andre Hatchett, 49, became the 19th person exonerated since Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson strengthened a conviction review unit when he took office in 2014.
Hatchett had been convicted of second degree murder for the 1991 death of Neda Mae Carter. His conviction was based on “a perfect storm of error – bad defense counsel, an unreliable witness, critical evidence that was never disclosed to the defense,” according to Seema Saifee, a staff attorney with the Innocence Project, which helped secure Hatchett’s release. “It’s frightening how easy it is to convict an innocent person in this country,” Saifee said. “And it’s overwhelmingly difficult to release an innocent person.”
When Neda Mae was killed, Hatchett, then 24, was on crutches from an injury he received as a bystander during a shooting.
According to Innocence Project attorneys, Hatchett had an I.Q. of 63 and had cooperated with the police and provided an alibi. He was arrested and convicted mainly on the testimony of an informant, Gerald “Jerry” Williams, who was facing a burglary charge and had initially identified another person as the killer – a fact that prosecutors failed to disclose to Hatchett’s attorneys.
At trial, Hatchett’s defense counsel was so incompetent that a judge declared a mistrial; his attorney at the retrial wasn’t much better – no defense was raised based on Hatchett’s low I.Q. or the fact that his injuries would have prevented him from killing Neda Mae in the manner the informant described. Wrongfully convicted, Hatchett served 25 years and continuously proclaimed his innocence. “I told y’all I didn’t do this,” he said when his conviction was dismissed by the Brooklyn Supreme Court.
“I just know I’m not the only one,” he added following his release. “There’s still a lot of innocent people in jail.” Hatchett had been denied parole before he was exonerated due to prison disciplinary infractions that included fighting and defying orders.
Source: The New York Times