Andre Hatchett has been freed from a New York prison after serving 25 years for the brutal murder of a woman who had been discovered dead, naked, beaten, and dragged into a cross-like position in a park, according to the Associated Press.
Andre Hatchett was convicted of the murder of Neda Mae Carter in 1991.
On Thursday, he was released from prison and the case against him was thrown out after prosecutors and Hatchett’s lawyers determined that the case was flawed.
— Innocence Project (@innocence) March 11, 2016
According to AP, questions arose over a dubious star witness and certain prosecutorial mistakes that denied Hatchett key information that would have proved he didn’t commit the murder. Hatchett’s defense lawyers were found to have failed him during two separate trials.
Hatchett told reporters he never lost hope that he would be freed someday.
“Because I knew I didn’t do it, I knew I was going to be home one day.”
His case joins more than 100 old convictions that Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s office has been revisiting.
Thus far in the review, 19 convictions have been overturned, while 38 have stood.
Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale called Hatchett’s conviction one of “systemic failure.”
The victim, 38, was strangled and beaten in the head in February, 1991. She lived in a rooming house that Hatchett frequently visited to see his aunt, according to his lawyers.
The two were reportedly seen together the night of the murder.
— Innocence Project (@innocence) March 10, 2016
Hatchett cooperated with police in the days following the murder and gave an alibi.
However, according to reports, the prosecution’s star witness originally named another man as the killer, but then picked Hatchett from a lineup. Prosecutors never told Hatchett’s lawyers the witness had initially pointed to someone else.
To add to credibility issues, the witness falsely denied on the stand that he’d smoked crack the day of the killing.
At the time of the murder, Hatchett had injuries that today raise doubts about his ability to carry out the crime, which were not mentioned at the original trial by anyone, including his own attorneys.
Hatchett’s days in court were shams, according to Hale. One, he said, was so inept that a judge declared a mistrial, and the second did not serve Hatchett. His attorney only gave an 11-minute closing argument.
Hatchett was unable to demand more of his attorney or help in the case because of lifelong intellectual disabilities, including a lack of reading and writing skills at the time of his trial, his lawyers said.
A week later, Gerald “Jerry” Williams told police he and a friend had seen the killing in the park and identified a suspect. The man he named was in jail, so police put Hatchett in a lineup, and Williams picked him out.
— MASS APPEAL (@MassAppeal) March 11, 2016
Another example of Hatchett’s flawed defense is that jurors never heard that he was on crutches the day of the murder after being shot in the legs and trachea months earlier.
In the review, prosecutors determined that because of his injuries, he couldn’t have dragged Carter’s body as Williams described in his testimony.
Those involved in the case can have little to say now about their mishandling of the case. The judge and Hatchett’s trial defense lawyer have died, Williams could not be located, and the assistant district attorney who tried the case is no longer a prosecutor and didn’t immediately return a call from AP on Thursday.
— BCNN1 (@bcnn1) March 11, 2016
On Thursday, Hatchett celebrated his new beginning with a barbecue lunch with his family, although the celebration is tainted by the knowledge that his mother, brother, son, and other loved ones died while he was in prison, according to Newsday.
“I just kept holding on, holding on. And now I’m going to get back up.”
[Image via Shutterstock]