Derrick Hamilton (basketball)’s height is
6ft 7in (2.01 m)
He has the backing of a decorated officer who swears she was with him in Connecticut at the time of the 1991 fatal shooting of Nathaniel Cash.
He also has signed affidavits from other witnesses fingering a different man.
The prosecution’s sole witness has even recanted her testimony and lobbied for his release – but the evidence hasn’t made a dent with the courts, which have denied his appeals.
“It’s really depressing,” Hamilton, 45, told the Daily News in a phone interview from an upstate prison. “This is the hardest thing a human being can experience.”
The married father of three is so adamant about his innocence he refused to apologize for the crime at a parole hearing last year – costing him an early release.
“I’m stuck in court and I’m stuck in here,” he said.
His latest hope is to persuade a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge to hear from two alibi witnesses who were not allowed to testify.
“I saw how powerful the evidence of innocence was and how weak the evidence against him was and it made me sick,” said lawyer Jonathan Edelstein, who helped Hamilton make the application to the judge.
“When there is a witness that can prove actual innocence, the court should overcome any procedural bars.”
Prosecutors oppose the request, saying the alibi statements fall short of exoneration.
Justice Raymond Guzman is reviewing the case and will decide whether to grant a hearing “in the near future,” Kings County Administrative Judge Barry Kamins said.
Hamilton’s past wasn’t pretty before his arrest in the Cash slay: He had served seven years in prison for manslaughter.
“It was foolish,” Hamilton said. “I took responsibility. I never meant to hurt anyone, but I was young and stupid.”
He was only a few months out of prison when cops arrested him for killing Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Jan. 4, 1991.
The prosecution’s star witness – Cash’s girlfriend, Jewel Smith – said Hamilton was the killer.
During the trial, Hamilton’s lawyer listed two alibi witnesses – his pal and a girlfriend – who vouched they were with him in New Haven during the murder.
Neither took the stand – one was too sick to travel and the other said she was threatened into not testifying.
Hamilton was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.
After the conviction, Smith backtracked, but a judge didn’t buy her change of heart.
Now a 40-year-old nursing assistant, Smith insists cops pressured her to lie. “I need to clear my conscience,” she said. “You just hope that this man gets vindicated.”
In 2007, a guilt-ridden Smith wrote letters to then Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the parole board.
Louis Scarcella, a retired detective who collared Hamilton and grilled Smith, said he remembers her as a credible witness. “If I went forth with an arrest, there was no doubt in my mind that he committed the murder,” Scarcella said.
More witnesses emerged after Hamilton’s sentencing.
One was Kelly Turner, who signed a 1995 affidavit stating she drove with Hamilton to her talent agency at 11 a.m. on Jan. 4, 1991 – the time of the shooting – and stayed with him until noon.
Trial judge Edward Rappaport refused to consider Turner’s affidavit or one from an associate because they were not original trial witnesses.
Rappaport also dismissed an affidavit from a witness claiming two other men shot Cash.
Turner, a retired New Haven cop who runs a cancer charity, said she stands by her account.
Hamilton said he still has faith in the justice system and hopes Turner’s words will set him free.
“You want to know that the system works,” he said. “Not just for me, for my children.”