BROOKLYN (PIX11) — Shortly before 4:30 p.m., Derrick Hamilton walked into 350 Jay Street with hopes that a 23-year-old miscarriage of justice would be reversed and that he would finally be labeled a free man.
Less than one hour later, the 49-year-old grandfather walked out as just that — a free man — and after raising his hand, he decided to share his reaction exclusively with PIX11 News.
“It feels great man, it’s been a long time coming and I mean I feel great, very, very relieved to be standing here and declared innocent,” Hamilton said.
Although Hamilton was released in 2011, it is only now his name has been cleared and his record officially expunged.
Hamilton spent 20 years in prison for what prosecutors said was the shooting death of Nathaniel Cash in 1991.
However, Hamilton told authorities he was nowhere near Cash’s murder in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but rather in New Haven, Conn.
Controversial NYPD Det. Louis Scarcella, whose career has come under scrutiny for shoddy police work in homicide cases, handled the Hamilton case — a case where the girlfriend of the victim reportedly recanted her testimony before Hamilton’s sentencing.
After 23 unrighteous years, Hamilton finally had science on his side.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson “said that the evidence, the scientific evidence established that the witness who testified against me didn’t tell the truth,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who says that he has been unable to visit his mother’s grave in North Carolina since he is technically on parole, feels that the decision has made him a different man.
“I mean after 20 some years in fighting, it’s like being born again.”
Thompson sympathizes with Hamilton, and admits the resolution of the case is bittersweet.
“This is not something that I relish, this is something that I feel obligated to do,” Thompson said,
Coming on the heels of an exhilarated David McCallum — the DA’s last overturned conviction less than three months ago — Thompson works away, cognizant that there are others still denied justice.
“We have about 100 more of these cases to look at … what many people don’t realize is that we are standing by most of the cases we’ve reviewed but there have been some that we have concluded men were wrongfully convicted, including Derrick Hamilton.”
Thompson has overturned 11 convictions since he has taken office. Hamilton said Thompson is an “angel.”
“… the people of Brooklyn elected me to do justice and that is what this is all about,” Thompson said when told of Hamilton’s praise for him. “We are protecting people from all types of crimes but we also have to make sure that our criminal-justice system is fair toward all.”