By Charisma L. Troiano, Esq.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After one full day of freedom, David McCallum looks forward to more than just settling in to life on the outside. On Wednesday, Oct. 15, after 28 years behind bars, McCallum was set free and released into the arms of his mother and other family members — all of whom waited decades for this moment.
McCallum was convicted for the 1985 robbery, kidnapping and murder of Nathan Blenner. A 16-year-old at the time of the killing, McCallum and his co-defendant William Stuckey maintained that the evidence against them was faulty from the start.
The police at the time captured confessions by McCallum and Stuckey on video, but the defendants asserted that they were beaten prior to their admissions and that they were told what to say by the investigating officers. Brooklyn’s new district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, agreed that the confessions "were false in large part because these 16-year-olds were fed false facts."
The world has changed since McCallum was last a free man. In 1986, the Soviet Union was still considered a world power, Ronald Reagan was president and cellular phones were new technology used only for making telephone calls. McCallum now prepares for a 2014 world where Barack Obama is the nation’s first black president, you can pause and rewind live TV and cell phones are closer to mobile computers than mere talking devices.
It is often a shock to the system for individuals released from prison, but McCallum said he is not too worried about his new reality.
“Preparing for release is one thing — actually being released is another,” McCallum told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an exclusive interview. “I am in shock, but I am not afraid of it. I embrace it.”
McCallum spent nearly three decades behind bars preparing for his release date, always “knowing in the back of my mind that I will get out — and if and when that happened, what to make of it.
“I wanted to put myself in the best position so that I would be prepared when I got out.”
McCallum enrolled in vocational and therapeutic training and believes that this background, in spite of or because of his wrongful conviction, gives him a strong leg to stand on while seeking employment.
“I have been blessed with a strong support system,” McCallum expressed, “but I should not be relying on them [financially].”
Behind bars, McCallum dedicated his time to learning the masonry trade and basic building and property maintenance, including electrical work.
“With masonry work you are not only working with your hands and a lot of materials, but you are also playing a part in building the very foundations we pass on an everyday basis,” McCallum said with a sense of pride.
"I am always worried because there may be a bias against me due to my conviction [although proven to be erroneous] … But if given a fair opportunity, I am confident that I stand a very good chance at gaining employment.”
Giving back has been a hallmark of McCallum’s character behind bars — one he vows to continue as a free man.
While incarcerated, McCallum also focused his energy in assisting other inmates, facilitating substance abuse and mentor programs and “teaching other inmates about the importance of avoiding altercations that can lead to violence.”
“I look forward to helping others recently released and those still incarcerated,” McCallum noted. “During my process of trying to get out of prison, I came across many individuals who have been professing their innocence.
“I am willing to work to assist them because it is not about me. It is not about being selfish — and it would be mighty selfish of me not to give back. It is about helping other people in similar situations.”
Understanding that the life outside prison — a life he has now been foreign to for 28 years — may prove challenging, McCallum maintains his positive and forward-looking attitude.
“I’m willing to learn and listen. It will be a struggle, but as I try to find my way, I know I will be fine.”