Fama recently participated in HBO’s new documentary Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn.
In the summer of 1989, Yusuf Hawkins was part of a group of Black teenagers traveling from East New York to look at a used car in Brooklyn. But when they got to the neighborhood they were met by a mob of white teenagers armed with baseball bats and a gun, leading to an altercation that ultimately killed Hawkins. The new HBO documentary Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn charts the tragic events of that day and also includes an interview with Joseph Fama, who was convicted of Hawkins’ murder. So you might be wondering, where Fama is now? He’s still in prison, and still pleading his innocence.
According to the Associated Press, in 1990, Fama was convicted of second-degree murder by depraved indifference, and was later sentenced to 32 years in prison, per the New York Times. Years later, Fama filed suit with the court in December 2000, alleging that he had not been afforded a fair trial due to the backlash and national attention the case had garnered, and that the sentence was "legally insufficient," according to public case records. And in a 2012 interview with The Brooklyn Ink, Fama continued to assert his innocence, telling them he was "railroaded" and was a "sacrificial lamb" as racial tensions flared wildly after the events of that night. The court has since denied his appeals.
However, Fama agreed to participate in the making of Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn. The documentary’s director, Muta’Ali, recalled sitting down with Fama in a recent interview with Variety. “He did seem quite nervous. I wasn’t sure how to read that, though, because he could have just been nervous because people get nervous on camera; he could have been nervous because it’s an uncomfortable subject; there were a lot of us in the room," said Muta’Ali. "I really don’t know. But that did come across and part of me thinks sometimes that nervousness came from maybe trying to grapple with what actually happened while talking about what you wish had happened. But I’m grateful that he actually decided to speak. The problem of denial includes not speaking about what’s happening.”
As of the documentary’s filming, Fama is still in prison, and is up for parole in April 2022.
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