A Texas man is free after spending more than two years in jail after being charged with murder.
JaTyrone Hollis was facing the death penalty when he was arrested and charged with capital murder in 2017, according to NBC DFW. He was only 17 years old.
Now he’s a free man after being acquitted by a Dallas County jury on Friday.
“The moment I heard the verdict I couldn’t even celebrate, it was so overwhelming,” Hollis said. “I’m happy to be out, but I just can’t enjoy it the way I’m supposed to enjoy it.”
The charges stem from the October 2017 shooting death of 17-year-old Isaiah Jones, who died while sitting in his car after a robbery. Hollis was present when Jones was shot, but he had nothing to do with the crime, his legal team successfully argued. A surveillance camera documented the moments before the shooting and the footage revealed Hollis never entered the vehicle.
There were other suspects, but Mesquite Police reportedly didn’t pursue leads on them. Instead, they zeroed in on Hollis, according to his lawyers.
“They were already convinced they knew who did it and they were just looking for a confession, they should have been looking at the evidence,” attorney Ashkan Mehryari told NBC DFW.
“They got tunnel vision that any other evidence that could have exonerated him on the spot they avoided taking it to heart,” Justin Moore, another defense attorney, said.
Hollis’ lawyers said police coerced a confession from him. During his attorneys’ news conference, they played an excerpted recording from the interrogation to illustrate the tactics the homicide detective used on the 17-year-old suspect.
“If you want to be honest then tell me the truth about your role in it,” the detective said.
“I am telling you. I am being honest,” he responded.
Hollis also refused a plea deal from the prosecution.
“I knew I had not committed the crime that they accused me of and I put my faith in the Lord,” Hollis said.
His faith paid off, and the 20-year-old is making up for lost time. He walked out of jail on Saturday.
“It’s time I can’t get back,” he said. “My grandmother passed away with me being incarcerated and the experience I went through was just heartbreaking.”
One bright spot in this dark situation is Hollis can get his GED and a college education for free, thanks to a private donor.
“That’s a blessing,” Hollis said after Mehryari shared the news. “That’s something I didn’t get to finish and that’s something I would love to do.”
Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot apologized for Hollis remaining in jail for a day after his acquittal and made sure the public knew that the arrest came before he took office.
“I did not take office until January 2019. His case was handled by the previous administration” Creuzot said in a statement. “Furthermore, two of the three trial attorneys are personal and professional friends of mine and none of them raised any concerns to me about improper prosecution.”
He also stated of his office, “Of course, we always give the defendant the presumption of innocence and do not expect that someone will be found guilty of any crime, unless and until, we prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Hollis doesn’t see it that way.
“They say you are innocent until proven guilty, well from my understanding and my being in those shoes I was guilty until proven innocent,” he said.