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‘David & Me,’ a heartbreaking, urgent call for justice

ERNESTINE MCCALLUM (SECOND FROM LEFT) AND THE REST OF DAVID MCCALLUM’S FAMILY HAS BEEN FIGHTING FOR HIS RELEASE FOR 28 YEARS. PHOTO BY MATTHEW TAUB

Great film on a wrongfully convicted man

Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief

“I actually heard about this case two years ago,” the criminal defense attorney sitting behind me said. “But it’s only seeing it like this–seeing this film–that you understand the tragedy. I’m a grown man, and I was in tears.”

This reviewer was similarly aghast. I wish I could tell you my critical impression of the documentary ‘David & Me’ — that of it’s quality, direction, pacing and plot. But it concerns a matter too urgent for a traditional review.

You need to see this film now, and then do whatever you can to get this man out of prison.

Championed by the likes of the late Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and an unlikely alliance of father-son Canadian writer-filmmakers, defense attorneys, and other activists, ‘David & Me’ is a layered, intricate and extremely well-executed portrait of of a false 1985 confession from a teenage suspect, one David McCallum from Bushwick. Based on that coerced confession, and despite a lack of any physical evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, and the disregard of important evidence pointing to other suspects, McCallum was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for a murder he quite clearly did not commit. He remains behind bars to this day.

Many reviews might naturally contrast the film (and the underlying case) to that of the Central Park Five. But that film championed the right of those wrongfully convicted Defendants for civil compensation–they had already been released from prison in 2002.

McCallum, by contrast, may die in jail.

“The Parole Board, unfortunately, has unfettered discretion,” said Laura Cohen, a law professor at Rutgers University, in a Q&A after the film’s screening at the Quad Cinema Friday evening. “They’re all seasoned political appointees, and David has to face them each time alone. It can be very intimidating.”

As relayed by it’s title, the film also contains a human interest story involving the filmmaker’s personal growth as a result of his relationship with McCallum. That relationship–as well as its peculiar origins, and charming development–is touching and unique. But with repetitive parole boards refusing to grant McCallum release, largely for his unwillingness to express remorse for a crime he didn’t commit, those appreciations must be reserved for another day.

“If the parole board came tonight, we’d buy them popcorn,” Cohen added. “We’d love for them to see this film.”

“I’ve asked the DA to review the conviction,” added Oscar Michelen, McCallum’s pro-bono criminal defense attorney, who appears in the film. Michelen noted, however, that he has received only a non-committal response.

In the meantime, you should see the film on these officials’ behalf, to help save David McCallum from a life in prison he doesn’t deserve.

David & Me – Trailer from Markham Street Films on Vimeo.

June 24, 2014 - 1:30pm


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