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Freed Brooklyn Man Sues Detective’s Widow

BROOKLYN (CN) - A man who spent 29 years behind bars for an overturned murder conviction wants $50 million from a detective and the widow of another investigator who he says put him in prison.

David McCallum was only 16 when he was convicted of murder for the October 1985 abduction and shooting death of Nathan Blenner in New York City. Blenner's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in a wooded area between a cemetery and a pair of railroad tracks after a carjacking. His car was then set on fire.

McCallum and another 16-year-old, Willie Stuckey, got 25 years to life for Blenner's death. Stuckey died in prison in 2001.

All charges against McCallum were reversed and vacated in October 2014 by Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, according to a lawsuit filed by McCallum on Tuesday.

McCallum claims he and Stuckey were forced to make a false confession through "intimidation, duress, coercion, force, unreasonable deception and their powers of arrest and interrogation."

"Plaintiff's conviction ... was based primarily on the false and coerced confession obtained by the defendants and by their failure and refusal to properly and thoroughly investigate the case," the 33-page complaint states. "Defendants intentionally, maliciously and/or negligently ignored evidence and leads that established that the plaintiff did not commit the crime and that others were involved."

McCallum says he was cuffed in front of a store one night and slapped around by detectives Joseph Butta and Frank O'Keeffe. The cops also threatened to hit him with a chair if he didn't "confess" to the killing, according to the lawsuit.

The detectives then fed facts to the boys that only the "true perpetrators should have known," the complaint states. McCallum says he and Stuckey ultimately confessed out of fear.

The pair later recanted their confessions, rejected a plea bargain and opted for a trial, only to be found guilty.

But in the past two decades, "social science research into the phenomenon of false confessions has grown exponentially, increasing the understanding of the causes and consequences of false confessions," McCallum's lawsuit states.

According to the complaint, plaintiff's defense attorney never received the results of any "hair, fiber, or blood analyses that may have been conducted" before trial. In addition, none of the fingerprints obtained matched McCallum's, he claims.

McCallum's case had caught the attention of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, who founded Innocence International in Toronto, after his own highly publicized exoneration in 1985. He assembled a team to interview witnesses and sought to poke holes in the district attorney's case for over a decade.

Thompson and his review unit agreed that the conviction was wrong, and had it overturned, McCallum lawsuit says.

Thompson, Brooklyn's first black district attorney, is on a mission to overturn wrongful convictions of black men. He has had 11 wrongful murder convictions overturned since taking office in 2013, according to a New York Daily News report.

Butta's wife, Lorraine, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with O'Keeffe. Butta died in September 1994 and his wife was named administrator of his estate four years later, according to the lawsuit.

McCallum's complaint was the second filed Tuesday against O'Keeffe and the widow. Norman Siegel of New York City-based Seigel Teitelbaum & Evans LLP filed a similar lawsuit for Stuckey's mother, Rosia Smith Stuckey.

McCallum seeks $50 million plus punitive damages. He is represented by Oscar Michelen of Cuomo LLC in Mineola, N.Y.

The New York City Law Department declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday morning. "We will review the claims once we are served with the complaint," a spokesman said.

Representatives for the NYPD declined to comment on pending litigation.

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