After more 25 years in prison, Andre Hatchett was finally released. He’d served a quarter of a century in prison, doing time for a crime he did not commit.
Now, Hatchett’s suing the city and the cops he says were the basis for his wrongful conviction.
According to Hatchett, it was police misconduct that got the ball rolling in the wrong direction in the first place. Tactics such as “suggestive identification tactics and feeding facts to unreliable witnesses” help prosecutors secure his conviction.
Because of this, more than 25 years later, the true killer of Neda Mae Carter’s still hasn’t been found. Hatchett noted this in his civil rights suit.
The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in a federal court in Brooklyn. This was a year after his second-degree murder conviction was undone by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit, the day Hatchett became a free man.
In February 1991, police found Carter’s naked body in a dim Bedford-Stuyvesant handball park. The woman, 37, was the victim of a monstrous assault that exposed her skull, knocked out her teeth, crushed her larynx and tore her uterus.
Hatchett, who has learning disabilities and cognitive limitations, maintained his innocence even as pressure from detectives mounted.
Hatchett was hanging out with a friend and the friend’s girlfriend at her house at the time of the murder.
Further, he was recovering from gunshot injuries to his throat and leg. When Hatchett’s conviction was thrown out last year, Brooklyn prosecutors said it was all but impossible for someone with Hatchett’s physical limitations to have committed the crime.
But Hatchett said police stuck with a longtime criminal to build a case against him.
Jerry Williams first said another man did it, but the individual turned out to be locked up when the murder happened. Less than a day later, police had Williams look at a line-up including Hatchett.
Before the line-up, they showed Hatchett’s mug shot to Williams. During the initial trial, the prosecution and defense weren’t told about the mugshot preview.
Williams’ statement falsely implicating Hatchett used facts provided by police, according to Hatchett’s suit. A burglary case against Williams ended up getting dismissed, which Hatchett claims was part of a quid pro quo for fingering him.
In the years after Hatchett’s conviction, the nonprofit Innocence Project took up his case, discovering how Williams first identified another suspect.
Hatchett’s suit noted others have suffered similar fates.
When it came to homicide cases around 1991, the suit said, police tactics included using promises or threats to get info and supply facts to witnesses, then telling prosecutors the revelations originated from the witnesses.
To show the “pervasive” misconduct, the suit pointed to wrongly convicted men including Jeffrey Blake, Reginald Connor, Everton Wagstaffe, Jonathan Fleming, William Lopez and Jabbar Collins.
Hatchett now lives in Pennsylvania.
Members of his family including his parents and his younger son died while Hatchett was behind bars. His lawsuit said Hatchett’s “cognitive limitations made understanding and coping with his wrongful conviction particularly difficult.”
The suit doesn’t specify damages sought and said the city has not made a settlement offer since a notice of claim was filed.
Some victims of wrongful Brooklyn convictions didn’t have to press their case in court, though others are litigating.
Last week, two Brooklyn men got $15 million settlements each after being cleared of arson and murder convictions.
Hatchett’s lawyer Emma Freudenberger said Hatchett “is staying positive and trying to move on with his life.”