Bronx man wrongly convicted for mother’s murder has his name cleared 19 years later
A man who served 19 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted by the murder of his mother, had all his charges and his name cleared almost 30 years later.
Huwe Burton, a 46-year-old from the Bronx, was only 16 when he lost his mother and his freedom. He was convicted in September 1991 to 15 years behind bars, facing charges for second-degree murder and possession of a weapon.
“It just felt like a weight was officially lifted."
Now, he’s finally got his name cleared on January 24, after a two-year investigation led by the Bronx District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit and lawyers from the Innocence Project, proved his innocence.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett exonerated Burton from all of the charges and also offered him an apology in the name of the system, saying:
“Certainly it is a tragedy that Mr. Burton spent some 20 years in jail for a crime that he did not commit. For this, I want to apologize to Mr. Burton for a system that failed him.”
While the decision can’t give Burton the almost two decades spent in prison, it does restart his criminal record and makes him eligible to get compensation from the City of New York for all of his trouble.
“It just felt like a weight was officially lifted,” Burton said moments after being exonerated in Bronx Supreme Court.
THE MURDER AND INITIAL INVESTIGATION
On January 3, 1989, a then 16-year-old Burton arrived at home after school to find his mother laying on a pool of blood, brutally stabbed to death. He also realized her car was missing. His father, Raphael, was on a business trip to Jamaica at the time.
Detectives didn’t think twice to point their fingers at Burton.
They used coercion techniques to make the boy confess to a crime he didn’t commit. Detectives threatened Burton with statutory-rape charges because he had an underage girlfriend, and also promised he would be judged as a minor in Family Court.
However, Burton was prosecuted as an adult two years later.
At the time, detectives came with the scenario that Burton had murdered his mother in a crack-induced rage when the woman, Keziah Burton, refused to give him $200 to pay his drug dealer. They also accused Huwe of stripping his mom’s body to make it seem like an intruder had entered their house, raped her, and then killed her.
THE REAL MURDERER
Emmanuel Green, a 22-year-old neighbor, was stopped by police for running a red light six days after the investigation was closed. He was driving Keziah’s stolen car and had information that only the murderer would know.
For example, that the knife found in the crime scene was not the real murder weapon. But despite all the clues pointing at Green, investigators decided to pursue Buwe.
Green was murdered in a love triangle’s dispute the same year Burton was convicted. He had some felonies under his belt, including a robbery at knifepoint and the rape of a teenage girl, but that was never mentioned in court.
THE FALSE CONFESSION
After Burton completed his sentence in 2009, he was released on parole. Then, he started working with lawyers from the Innocence Project to clear his name, until now.
District attorney Darcel Clark explained that Burton’s confession was dismissed because previous investigations have revealed that the three detectives that led his case back then had been using “psychologically coercive techniques” to make him give a false confession. The officials allegedly used the same tactics in two unrelated murder cases months before Burton’s arrest.
“Now, police and prosecutors use different techniques to interview suspects and solve and try crimes, and we believe that Mr. Burton might not have been convicted using today's standards in law enforcement and the criminal justice system," said Clark.
THE BITTER TASTE OF JUSTICE
An emotional Burton told the judge on the court that:
“My mother was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known … one of the things that she did was respect the law and respect law enforcement. But at the time of her death, she wasn’t respected by the law or law enforcement.”
He further explained that the investigation for her murder lasted only 48 hours. “Had they taken a longer look, a more analytical look, they may not have rushed the judgment,” he added.
Burton plans to keep working to help other convicts that might be in similar situations. “Don't give up, don't stop the fight,” he concluded.
ANOTHER WIN FOR THE INNOCENCE PROJECT
Last year, another man regained his freedom and had charges against him dropped thanks to the work of the Innocence Project lawyer.
Horace Roberts, from California, was convicted in 1998 after the prosecutor brought forth seemingly undisputable evidence that connected Roberts to the murder of a woman. A watch was found next to the body of the victim, and they concluded it was Roberts’.
It wasn’t until after 15 years that DNA technology would prove that the watch did not belong to him. Instead, it belonged to a family member of the victim that had enough reasons to want her dead.
On October 2, 2018, the District Attorney agreed to revoke Horace Roberts's conviction. Members of the CIP picked him up from prison the next day and took him to San Diego.
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