FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Brooklyn D.A. Moves to Vacate the Wrongful Conviction of Andre Hatchett
Who Was Convicted of Murdering Acquaintance in 1991 in Bed-Stuy Park
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that following a thorough investigation by his Conviction Review Unit he will move to vacate a second-degree murder conviction against Andre Hatchett, 49, who was wrongfully convicted of the charge following a jury trial. Hatchett is presently incarcerated and serving a sentence of 25 years to life in prison on this case.
District Attorney Thompson said, “After a thorough and fair review of this case by my Conviction Review Unit, I’ve concluded that, in the interest of justice, Andre Hatchett’s murder conviction should not stand and that he should be released from custody immediately.”
The District Attorney’s Office will move to vacate the conviction, in the presence of Mr. Hatchett, today at 2:15 p.m., before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Matthew D’Emic at 320 Jay Street, 15th floor.
The District Attorney described the facts of the case as follows: On February 18, 1991, at approximately 11 p.m., police officers assigned to the 81st precinct responded to a 911 call of an unconscious woman in Monroe Street Park (now known as Reinaldo Selgado Playground) in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. They discovered a female lying face up on the ground near the handball courts. The victim was identified as Neda Mae Carter, 38, who was deceased, completely nude, and very badly beaten about the face, head and neck.
The medical examiner’s office later determined the cause of death to be ligature strangulation and blunt trauma about the head; it was also determined that the victim had been dragged a distance due to abrasions on her knees, hip and shoulder. Her body was positioned in a particular fashion with her arms splayed straight out from her body at 90 degree angles, her legs straight, close together and crossed at the ankle, similar to a crucifixion position.
Detectives soon thereafter visited the victim’s mother, Zella Mae Carter, with whom she lived, and learned that Neda Mae had left home at approximately 9:30 p.m. that night, and that she was with Andre Hatchett.
The sole eyewitness to testify in the case was Jerry Williams, a career criminal who testified that he and another woman were walking in the park that night and heard what sounded like a woman screaming. They walked in the direction of the scream, saw someone on the ground and a man standing over that person and asked what was going on. The man yelled at them to leave and mind their own business. They left the park and Williams’ companion, Yvette Hopkins, called 911, but the two left before the police arrived.
Williams was arrested for an unrelated burglary on February 25, 1991, in the 81st precinct, and while in custody at the station house told police that he recognized another suspect, who was in custody at the same time for an unrelated robbery, as someone he saw commit a murder in Monroe Street Park a week earlier.
That man was investigated and it was determined that the suspect Williams pointed to had a solid alibi and could not have committed the murder.
Williams’ later viewed a lineup and picked out Andre Hatchett as the killer, testifying that he recognized him from soup kitchens in the area and knew him to be a crack addict.
Hatchett’s first trial ended in a mistrial after the judge determined there was ineffective assistance of counsel. The second trial resulted in a conviction on second-degree murder charges and Hatchett was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Upon reviewing the conviction, the CRU found that the defendant was deprived of his due process rights based on several issues, including Brady violations, because his defense was never notified by prosecutors that Williams initially positively identified another man as the killer and that Williams told detectives he and Hopkins both smoked crack on the day of the murder. In fact, the prosecutor in the case asked Williams if he smoked crack on the day of the murder during the second trial and he perjuriously claimed he had not.
The CRU also determined that although Hatchett had been shot in the legs and trachea six months before the murder, causing him to use two crutches to get around and significantly weakening his voice, his medical condition had not been brought out by his defense lawyer at trial. 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. This would have been difficult given Hatchett’s physical condition in 1991. It would also be difficult for the defendant to shout loudly at Williams and Hopkins and for his voice to carry across the park as Williams testified.
The severe nature of the Brady violations in this case, coupled with the undisclosed unreliability of the People’s lone identifying witness, prevents the CRU from supporting the integrity of the conviction.
The District Attorney said that his Conviction Review Unit examined the case because it was brought to their attention by The Innocence Project.
To date, the work of the Conviction Review Unit, which is led by Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale, has resulted in 19 convictions being vacated. In addition, the CRU has found that of the cases reviewed thus far, 38 convictions are just and will not be recommended to be vacated. Approximately 100 cases are pending review.