A Black man who spent more than 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted for armed robbery is finally free after New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams’ office decided not to retry the case.
Jermaine Hudson, 42, won his freedom on March 26, the day after his accuser the key witness in the case, came forward and recanted his testimony, admitting he lied about the robbery to cover up the fact that he’d spent money on drugs, according to The Promise of Justice Initiative.
“I just thank God that it’s finally over,” Hudson said, according to NOLA.com. “Thank God for revealing the truth. I forgive the guy and pray that he gets his life back on track.” He spent 22 years behind bars.
Hudson’s ordeal began in 1999 when his accuser, who was 18 years old at the time, told his father he’d been robbed for cash at gunpoint while riding his bike home from work. The teen’s father called the police, and the accuser was presented with a lineup a month later.
The accuser picked 21-year-old Hudson, who lived in the area, out out the lineup.
Hudson, who had previously pleaded guilty to armed robbery at the age of 16, was approached by a prosecutor in March 2000 the day before the trial was set to begin and offered a plea deal. The young father of two daughters was working at a grocery store at the time and rejected the deal, saying he wouldn’t agree to serve time for a crime he didn’t commit.
At the trial, jurors voted 10-2 to convict him. Hudson was sentenced to 99 years in prison. During his time behind bars his appeals were denied.
Court records show that District Attorney Jason Williams’ office planned to grant Hudson a new trial after the office began reviewing cases convicted by a non-unanimous jury.
The Supreme Court ruled last year that it was unconstitutional to allow non-unanimous convictions. While the ruling applied to cases with pending appeals, Williams applied it retroactively when he took office in January, and Hudson was granted a new trial.
But after the accuser revealed his decades-old secret, the office decide not to prosecute the case. On March 25, the accuser admitted in an affidavit that he had fabricated the crime. “For the last 20 years since this happened, I have been tortured by the lie I told,” the accuser said. He admitted he wanted to cover up the fact that he spent money on drugs and revealed he’d simply thrown away the St. Christopher medal he’d alleged had been stolen.
The accuser still struggles with substance abuse and is currently in rehab. He was granted immunity by Williams’ office. The accuser said he wasn’t aware that Hudson’s conviction had already been thrown out.
“Mr. Hudson’s case illustrates the systemic problems with the accuracy of cases decided by non-unanimous juries,” said Jamila Johnson, an attorney with The Promised Justice Initiative.
Prior to the accuser’s admission, Hudson had agreed to plead guilty to the armed robbery charge in order to receive a sentence of time served.
Now that he’s free, Hudson, who is engaged, is getting to know the children he barely knew and plans to find work as a plumber. A GoFundMe page for Hudson has raised more than $7,000 of a $20,000 goal.