Wrongfully Convicted Man Walks Free After 24 Years
A Philadelphia man walked free this week after spending 24 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
Shaun Thomas' conviction was overturned Tuesday and he walked out of prison that same day.
The 43-year-old was just 16 when he was accused of participating in the murder of a businessman who was shot in 1990.
Thanks in part to the dogged efforts of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, the Conviction Review Unit from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office discovered a believed-to-be-lost file at the Philadelphia Police Department.
In that file were 36 pages of witness statements taken days after the murder for which Thomas would be arrested years later.
Those statements point to viable alternative perpetrators, according to a release from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.
They also backed up Thomas' insistence all along he was at another court hearing when the crime was committed. However, alibi-proving logs disappeared from the juvenile correctional center and a jury didn't buy testimony from Thomas' mother and sister claiming they were with him at the time of the murder.
Had that information been available at trial — and had the story of Shaun’s presence in court at the moment the murder was committed been told correctly — prosecutors agreed the trial would likely have ended differently, the statement reads.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, along with attorney and former Philadelphia police Sgt. James Figorski, represented Thomas for eight years prior to his release.
"I feel wonderful," Thomas said as he left the prison in Frackville on his way back to his fiancee, mother, siblings, children and friends in Philadelphia. "Life's too short for that. I just move on forward."
Thomas got to use a cell phone for the first time and planned to eat the "Ultimate Feast" at Red Lobster as his first meal, according to CBS News.
The district attorney's office will decide at a hearing next month whether they intend to retry Thomas.