A Bronx man wrongfully accused of stabbing his mother to death inside their New York City apartment, then staging the scene to appear as if an intruder had sexually assaulted and murdered her, had his conviction thrown out Thursday.
Huwe Burton, 46, spent almost two decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, his slate is officially wiped clean.
“To hear that there’s been public acknowledgment of what was done to me — that’s when I get a bit emotional,” said Burton, who was paroled in 2009. “It just felt like a weight was officially lifted.”
Though he had his freedom, the Bronx man said living with a wrongful conviction of murdering his mother was too much to bear.
Burton was just 16 years old when he was convicted for the 1989 stabbing of his mother, Keziah Burton, 59, inside their apartment. The teen told police he came home to find his mother’s bloodied body in her bedroom but later gave a false confession claiming he had murdered her after she refused to lend him $200 to pay a crack dealer.
Burton, who had no criminal history, soon recanted the admission and denied ever using crack cocaine. However, it wasn’t enough to keep prosecutor’s from convicting him in the crime based on evidence that centered on his confession and statements from a neighbor who implicated the teen in his mother’s killing, CBS New York reported.
Bronx DA Darcel Clark now believes that same neighbor, who was caught driving Keziah Burton’s stolen car days after her killing, is a “viable suspect” in her murder. The unnamed neighbor is now dead, however.
In September 1991, Burton was charged as an adult for second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life behind bars.
“Mr. Burton served 19 years in prison and since his release in 2009 has led a law-abiding life,” Clark said outside court on Thursday. “He’s maintained his innocence for almost 30 years and now we will clear his name of this brutal killing.”
Susan Friedman, an attorney with the Innocence Project who worked alongside the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit to re-investigate the case, described Burton as an “extraordinary” man.
“The injustice he endured is unimaginable — to be wrongly convicted of murdering his mother, whom he adored,” said Friedman.
According to ABC 7, a review of the case determined Burton’s confession as a 16-year-old boy was unreliable and that detectives at the time used questionable interview techniques known to produce false confessions. There were also contradictions in the proof presented at Burton’s trial to prove his role in the killing.
“When my mother was murdered, the investigation was 48 hours,” Burton told reporters after a judge tossed his conviction. “Had they taken a longer look, a more analytical look, they may have not rushed to the judgment.”
Despite his wrongful conviction, the Bronx man has spent the last decade working to rebuild his life and now hopes to help others who’ve been wrongfully locked up. Burton currently works in elevator construction and is training for a marathon in November, according to CBS New York.
He had this poignant message for those who were in his position: “Don’t give up, don’t stop the fight.”
Watch more in the video below.