David and Me: A Perspective on the Criminal Justice System

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By Avani Bahl:

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: a teenager is picked up on suspicion of being a murder suspect, detained and questioned by police for hours until he confesses, and then ends up in jail for what could be the rest of his life. It’s one of those tragedies that seems to permeate our justice system. The film David and Me, created by Ray Klonksy, follows the life of David McCallum, who in 1985 was accused of killing 16-year-old Nathan Blenner in Brooklyn. But David & Me isn’t a Law & Order-like episode of injustice and legal activism. It’s a film about how the most unlikely of people, and the most unlikely of connections, can teach us something profound about ourselves.

David and Me functions as a tender story of an unlikely friendship between Ray, 29, and David, 44. Through a mutual friend, David and Ray became fast friends, with Ray vowing to help David leave the prison bars that he’s spent nearly two-thirds of his life behind. “He didn’t seem like a guy who had to spend time in prison,” claimed Ray, who was so convinced of David’s innocence that he took on two side jobs to fund the film.

While the connection between the Ray and David is admirable, one cannot get drawn away from the issue of justice that is incredibly and bluntly miscarried. David was wrongfully convicted for murder and sentenced to 25 years to life when he was 16 years old, the ripe age of adolescence that most of us at Branson have experienced. Ray argues the reason is related to both the police corruption in the 80s and the lack of forensic science. The detective in charge of the investigation in 1985 threatened David with physical violence to make him confess. He needed to solve this case as quickly as possible and getting a black kid off the street was a “victory” whether he was guilty or not.

It took 28 years, 11 months, and 12 days for David to get a taste of freedom. This past October, he was finally exonerated thanks to the help of Ray and his family, who fought to prove his innocence.

Within an hour of being released, he was back at his mother’s house, where he ate his first home-cooked meal since he was a teenager. ”The chicken she cooked tasted so different from the so-called chicken I had inside,” he told New York’s Daily News. “It tasted like freedom. Everything’s got freedom written all over it.”

David and Me is currently playing the Rafael Theater. Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpRzntfFt9A

I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in the criminal justice system, or anyone who has a heart big enough to appreciate David’s triumphant story of success.