Andre Hatchett is seen during a hearing on his exoneration in court on March 10.
Andre Hatchett, wrongfully convicted of homicide
Exonerated after serving 24 of 25 year sentence years behind bars
A wrongly convicted man pumped his fists with joy Thursday as a judge announced his exoneration — after the man had already served 24 years of a 25-year sentence.
“I want to thank my family for sticking by me,” declared Andre Hatchett in Brooklyn Supreme Court, as Justice Matthew D’Emic set him free to the joyous cheers of his family and friends.
“I was telling them I’m gonna’ be home one day,” he added while tearing up. “I don’t know if they believed me, but I don’t lie.”
The 49-year-old spent nearly half of his life behind bars for the Feb. 18, 1991 murder of 38-year-old Neda Mae Carter, whose body was found naked and brutally beaten in the former Monroe Street Park in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
His case was re-examined by the Brooklyn DA’soffice, which discovered the sole witness to testify in the case — career criminal Jerry Williams — first IDed another man as Carter’s killer.
Lawyers for Hatchett were never notified about that piece of information, the DA’s office said.
The DA’s Conviction Review Unit also found that Hatchett was “deprived of his due process rights based on several issues, including Brady violations,” because his defense was never notified.
Also, Hatchett was recovering from a bullet wound to his leg at the time of the crime.
“This evidence is important because the medical examiner testified that the blows to the victim’s head required a significant degree of physical force, that there was a violent struggle and that the victim’s body was dragged and arranged in a certain position with her head propped up against a tree,” the DA’s office said.
“This would have been difficult given Hatchett’s physical condition in 1991.”
Life in prison was hard and lonely for Hatchett, who lost several family members — including, his son, mother, and two aunts — while locked up.
He said it was hard to keep his dignity, when he was falsely branded a killer.
“I fell and I got back up,” he said. “When I was incarcerated they called me ‘the killer’…But I’m going to be alright. I’m strong.”
Hatchett, who is plannig to live with his sister in Pennsylvania, walked out of court and began his life as a free man with a cigarette.
He then chowed down on a steak, baked potato and orange juice at nearby Dallas BBQ.
“I feel good. I’m glad I’m free. I just want to stay with my family, stay out of trouble,” he said after court. “I always like to tell the truth and God set me free.”
His 51-year-old brother Jerry was thrilled, saying, “It’s a long time waiting because I knew from day one he didn’t do it.”
Hatchett marks the 19th person to be freed as a result of the work of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit. A total of 100 cases are pending review by the unit
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