A Philadelphia man was all smiles Tuesday, May 23, as he walked out of prison just hours after being exonerated of a murder he didn’t commit.
Shaurn Thomas, who’s spent the past 24 years of his life behind bars, celebrated his long-awaited release with his fiancée and team of attorneys from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, ABC 6 News reported. Thomas was discharged from a prison in Frackville, Pa.
“I feel wonderful, a free man. I can’t feel no better,” he told the news station. “Hey man, just got to believe in God, and had the right legal team, and keep fighting.”
Thomas was sentenced to prison at age 19 for the murder of a Puerto Rican businessman in November 1990. The former inmate has always maintained his innocence, asserting that he was at a hearing for another matter at a local youth study center at the time of the murder. Thomas’ mother and sister testified that they were with him, but still no one believed them.
“The hardest part was them not believing me from the beginning,” Shaurn’s mother, Hazeline Thomas, told Philly.com just outside the prison entrance. “Truthfully, I lost a lot of years with that.”
It wasn’t until a court hearing Tuesday that a judge overturned the conviction after the district attorney’s office determined there was not enough evidence against Thomas to convict him.
Jim Figorski of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project said seeing the Philadelphia man finally released from prison felt amazing.
“It feels amazing. It’s one of the best feelings I ever had to see Shaurn Thomas walk out of prison,” Fogorski said. “A lot of hard work went into it. We at times thought this would never happen, but it finally happened today.”
Though he lost 24 years of his life sitting in prison, Thomas said he had no ill will against the authorities who put him there.
“I don’t got no animosity towards nobody,” he said. “What for? Life’s too short for that. You can’t get it back. I just move on forward. It’s a tragedy that happened to me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.”
All in all, Thomas was visibly excited to experience his new life outside of prison.
His first plan? To chow down on the Ultimate Feast at Red Lobster.