Though confidence in the criminal justice system is supposed to be a cornerstone of American democracy, the cases of wrongfully imprisoned Black men seem to come at an astounding clip. The latest is the case of Derrick Hamilton, 46, a father of three who spent 20 years behind bars for a crime he claimed all along that he couldn’t have committed because he was in a different state when the crime occurred.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, who is Black, said he plans to vacate Hamilton’s conviction of homicide, citing ballistic and other scientific evidence.
Hamilton told the New York Daily News that he has argued all along that he was in Connecticut when Nathaniel Cash was killed in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1991.
“I feel vindicated,” Hamilton told the News. “It’s like a rebirth. I’m a new guy. I can live my life in happiness. It’s just overwhelming.”
There was just one witness who testified against Hamilton—the victim’s girlfriend, Jewel Smith. Smith retracted her testimony in 2011 and actually participated in lobbying officials to release him.
In addition, there were inconsistencies in the physical evidence and Smith’s testimony during the trial.
“Correcting miscarriages of justice is very important,” said Thompson. “Having men in prison for murders they did not commit is not justice.”
The district attorney told Hamilton the news in person yesterday.
Hamilton has been out of prison since 2011, when he was released five years before the completion of his 25-year sentence. Every time he went before a parole board, Hamilton would insist he was innocent and refused to apologize. It turned out that the case involved the actions of NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella, who has been accused of cutting corners in five homicide convictions that were later overturned, according to the News, which said he allegedly strong-armed a witness, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
The DA is reviewing about 100 questionable cases and, so far, has reversed the convictions of 11 men—two of them posthumously—who served years for murders they did not commit.