A Brooklyn, New York, man has spent the last 25 years in jail for a murder he did not commit. Andre Hatchett, 49, is an adult who suffers from a mental disability and was convicted of a violent murder in 1991. Neda Mae Carter’s badly beaten and naked body was discovered at a handball court in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of the city. At the time of the offense, Hatchett’s right leg was in a cast and he had a legitimate alibi. However, he was convicted based on eyewitness testimony given by Gerard “Jerry” Williams a known career criminal. Hatchett was sentenced to a prison term of 25 years to life for the murder.
Williams had been arrested on a burglary charge and may have received an undisclosed plea deal to name Hatchett as the killer. The Innocence Project decided to review the case and their findings led to Hatchett’s release. Initially, Williams identified another man as the suspect, a fact that was hidden from Hatchett’s defense team. “This was a systemic failure, by every institution he encountered,” said Assistant District Attorney Mark Hale.
“I told y’all I didn’t do this, I’m so happy to be free again. I lost my son, my mom and my dad while in here. I’m home again,” Hatchett said in a Brooklyn courtroom after learning that his conviction had been overturned.
When he left the courthouse a free man he stated to media, “I stayed strong. I tell the truth, and it set me free. Now I don’t have to sleep alone anymore. I’m free!”
Through the work of the Innocence Project Hatchett, was the 19th wrongfully convicted prisoner freed by the Brooklyn District Attorney Office’s Conviction Review Unit. Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, issued the following statement: “We are incredibly grateful to District Attorney Ken Thompson and his conviction integrity unit, without which Mr. Hatchett may never have received justice. … This was a cooperative, non-adversarial search for the truth that should be a model for all who do this work.”