Innocence Project client Huwe Burton is pictured following his exoneration on January 24, 2019 in the Bronx County Hall of Justice. In 1989, 16-year-old Huwe found his mother Keziah Burton stabbed to death when he returned home. The detectives who interrogated Huwe about her death used psychologically coercive techniques including separating him from his father and threatening him with additional charges.
Sleep-deprived, unaccompanied by an adult for guidance, and traumatized by the loss of his beloved mother, Huwe signed and recorded a confession. He immediately recanted and professed his innocence at trial, but the court refused his attorney’s request to admit testimony from a psychiatrist to discuss the unreliability of Huwe’s confession.
The Innocence Project and the Bronx District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit reinvestigated the case along with our co-counsel at the Center on Wrongful Convictions and the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic at Rutgers University School of Law. The reinvestigations discovered that the detectives who interrogated Huwe obtained false confessions from two other individuals less than three months earlier. The reinvestigation also uncovered new evidence that the Burtons’ neighbor, who was found driving the family’s stolen car days after the murder, had a record of violent crime and sexual assault, providing strong evidence for the defense theory that this neighbor, who is long since deceased, committed the murder.
Based on these revelations and the current scientific understanding of false confessions, today the Bronx District Attorney recommended that the court vacate Huwe’s conviction and dismiss the charges. Based on the three false confessions revealed during this investigation, we also hope and expect that the Bronx Conviction Integrity Unit will be open to reviewing other cases handled by these detectives.
During Huwe’s almost 20 years of wrongful incarceration, he endured the death of his father, who was his most stalwart advocate and spent his life savings on his son’s defense. Since Huwe was released on parole in 2009, he has continued the fight to clear his name and share his story in hope of preventing injustice for others.
It was a privilege for the Innocence Project team to stand with him and watch a small measure of justice for the Burton family as the court finally cleared Huwe’s name.
Thank you for your support of Team Innocence Project for the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon.
Photo: Sameer Abdel-Khalek