David Clarke spent four years behind bars on Riker’s Island, an accused killer desperate to prove his innocence and get on with his life. The National Honor Society student, a sure bet for a college scholarship before his 2007 arrest, sent eloquent letters to seemingly endless recipients in hopes of being freed. “I feel like I am trapped in a system that was designed to try to keep me in jail rather than find justice,” he wrote the Daily News one year ago. “I am not looking for sympathy from anyone, nor am I looking for any favors, all I want is a fair trial to prove that I am innocent.”
In March, the clean-cut, soft-spoken 23-year-old finally left his cell for a Bronx courtroom. A jury of his peers needed just 20 minutes to acquit Clarke after a monthlong trial. “They didn’t even wait for the free lunch,” said his lawyer, Steven Kaiser. “I think they genuinely felt sorry for the kid. They didn’t want him to spend a minute more in jail.” Clarke returned home with the words “not guilty” ringing in his ears — a sound that gave way to gunshots just eight months into his long-denied freedom. The ex-murder suspect became a murder victim, shot to death in front of his Bronx home on Monday — killed in a penny-ante neighborhood beef unrelated to the murder case, his devastated family said.
“Four years in Rikers, to come here and die in eight months? Why would God do that? It’s not even fair,” cried his mother, Anne Smith. “He was 23 years old. How do you die at 23?” Her son’s friends told Smith that David won a fistfight and the loser vowed to return with a gun for revenge. “David thought he was joking. The guy is 16 or 17!” she said. “He came back five minutes later. Nobody knows why.” Cops found the mortally wounded Clarke bleeding from the neck on sidewalk outside his Sedgwick Ave. building in the Bronx just after 4 p.m.
The killer remains at large.