After 19 years in prison, NY man cleared in mother’s killing

Huwe Burton speaks with reporters at the Bronx County Hall of Justice on Jan. 24, 2019, after his conviction was dismissed in the 1989 killing of his mother. (AP Photo/Jennifer Peltz)
Updated 25 January 2019
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After 19 years in prison, NY man cleared in mother’s killing

NEW YORK: Huwe Burton was 16 when he was accused of stabbing his mother to death, then staging the scene to make it appear an intruder had sexually assaulted and killed her. He insisted for decades he didn’t commit the crime.
After 30 years — 19 of them in prison — Burton was cleared of the charges Thursday after Bronx prosecutors said they would no longer stand behind his murder conviction.
“To hear that there’s been public acknowledgement of what was done to me — that’s when I get a bit emotional,” said Burton, 46, who was paroled in 2009. “It just felt like a weight was officially lifted.”
While he had his freedom, living with a wrongful conviction for killing his mother, Keziah Burton, “was just a lot to bear,” he said.
Prosecutors and Burton’s lawyers, from the Innocence Project, said a re-investigation raised questions about the methods police used to obtain a confession he had long disavowed, and about a neighbor who implicated Burton in the crime but whom Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark now calls a viable suspect in the killing. The neighbor is long dead.
“I no longer have the confidence that Mr. Burton’s confession is reliable,” Clark said outside court. “I’m pleased that we were able to help restore his dignity.”
Burton (whose first name is pronounced ‘hyoo’) was a high school student when he called 911 on Jan. 3, 1989, to report that he had come home to find his mother’s bloodied body in her bedroom. She was a nurse; his father, a building contractor, was visiting relatives in Jamaica at the time.
Police soon homed in on their son. He had no criminal record, but police would later tell reporters he didn’t seem as distraught as detectives thought he should be.
After being questioned alone, Burton confessed to killing his mother to get money to pay a crack dealer. The admission resounded in newspaper headlines in an era of crack and violent crime.
Burton soon recanted his confession and said he had never used the drug. But he was convicted on evidence that centered on his confession and statements from a neighbor — who had been arrested days after Keziah Burton’s killing driving her stolen car — that the teen had confessed to him and they had both then staged the scene of an apparent break-in and sexual assault.
The neighbor had convictions in robbery and rape cases, and the re-investigation turned up troubling psychological records on him, according to Burton’s legal team, which also included a Rutgers University legal clinic and a Northwestern University professor.
Clark said “it became clear that there was a viable suspect that was involved” but never brought to justice. The neighbor was killed in a personal dispute before Burton’s trial.
Burton’s lawyers said detectives with a history of getting false confessions — they were involved in another confession-based case that ended in acquittal — pushed Burton into confessing by telling him they would help him if he did and threatening to charge him with other crimes if he didn’t, among other tactics.
Burton’s trial attorney, the late William Kunstler, wanted to have a psychiatrist testify about false confessions, but a judge declined the request, Burton’s current lawyers said.
Prosecutors agreed Thursday that detectives used problematic interview techniques now understood to make false confessions more likely, though Clark made a point of saying that the methods were common at the time.
“It’s not necessarily that they did anything wrong ... and so now we know better,” she said.
A message seeking comment was left with the New York Police Department. The detectives involved have retired, Clark said.
Burton, who works in elevator construction, said he hopes his experience will help other people fight wrongful convictions.
Asked how he had gotten through prison, he said: “By not asking how. I had to find my ‘why’: Why is this happening to me, and what can I do about it?“


N.Korea’s Kim to Putin: US acted in ‘bad faith’ at Hanoi talks

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago
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N.Korea’s Kim to Putin: US acted in ‘bad faith’ at Hanoi talks

  • At Hanoi, Pyongyang demanded immediate relief from US sanctions, but the two sides disagreed over what the North was prepared to give up in return
  • Russia has already called for the sanctions to be eased, while the US has accused it of trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: At his first summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the United States of acting in “bad faith” at their most recent talks, state media in Pyongyang said Friday.
Kim and Putin met Thursday in the far eastern Russian port of Vladivostok, for their first summit — squarely aimed at countering US influence as Kim faces off with Donald Trump over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.
Putin was keen to put Moscow forward as a player in a new global flashpoint — and it appears Kim was eager to take him up on the idea, during talks described by KCNA as “unreserved and friendly.”
The two leaders greeted each other warmly, shaking hands and sharing smiles, at the start of meetings on an island off Vladivostok that lasted nearly five hours.
Putin, known for delaying meetings with international guests, was waiting for Kim when he emerged from his limousine.
During the talks, Kim said “the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
He warned that the situation “may return to its original state as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks,” the agency added.
“Peace and security on the Korean peninsula will entirely depend on the US future attitude, and the DPRK will gird itself for every possible situation,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
The Kim-Trump summit broke down in late February without a deal on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
At those talks, cash-strapped Pyongyang demanded immediate relief from sanctions, but the two sides disagreed over what the North was prepared to give up in return.
Russia has already called for the sanctions to be eased, while the US has accused it of trying to help Pyongyang evade some of the measures — accusations Moscow denies.
Just a week ago, Pyongyang demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the stalled nuclear talks, accusing him of derailing the process.
On Thursday, Putin emerged from the meeting saying that like Washington, Moscow supports efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent nuclear conflicts.
But he also insisted that the North needed “guarantees of its security, the preservation of its sovereignty.”
“We need to... return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world,” Putin said.


Kim said he hoped to usher in a “new heyday” in ties between Pyongyang and Moscow.
Both men said they were looking to strengthen ties that date back to the Soviet Union’s support for the founder of North Korea, Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung.
The two shared a lunch that included borscht, crab salad and venison dumplings, Russian news agency TASS reported.
The North Korean leader invited Putin to visit North Korea “at a convenient time” and the invitation was “readily accepted,” KCNA said.
Kim, who arrived in Vladivostok aboard his armored train, was expected to stay until Friday for cultural events that Russian media have reported will include a ballet and a visit to the city’s aquarium.


The meeting was Kim’s first with another head of state since returning from his Hanoi summit with Trump.
It followed repeated invitations from Putin after Kim embarked on a series of diplomatic overtures last year.
Since March 2018, the North Korean leader has held four meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, two with Trump and one with Vietnam’s president.
Putin told reporters that he would fill in Washington on the results of the talks.
“There are no secrets here, no conspiracies... Chairman Kim himself asked us to inform the American side of our position,” said Putin.
There were no concrete announcements or agreements in Vladivostok, but analysts said Thursday’s meeting was valuable to both sides.
“For North Korea, it’s all about securing another exit. China talks about sanctions relief but it doesn’t really put it into action,” said Koo Kab-woo, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
“For Russia, North Korea is elevating it back to one of the direct parties, on the same footing as China.”


Among the issues that were likely discussed was the fate of some 10,000 North Korean laborers working in Russia and due to leave by the end of this year under sanctions.
Labour is one of North Korea’s key exports and sources of cash. Pyongyang has reportedly asked Russia to continue to employ its workers after the deadline.
Soon after his first election as Russian president, Putin sought to normalize relations with Pyongyang and met Kim Jong Il — the current leader’s father and predecessor — three times, including a 2002 meeting also held in Vladivostok.
China has since cemented its role as the isolated North’s most important ally, its largest trading partner and crucial fuel supplier, and analysts say Kim could be looking to balance Beijing’s influence.
The last meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea came in 2011, when Kim Jong Il told then-president Dmitry Medvedev that he was prepared to renounce nuclear testing.
His son has since overseen by far the country’s most powerful blast to date, and launch of missiles which Pyongyang says are capable of reaching the entire US mainland.
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