Philadelphia resident Shaurn Thomas was declared innocent and finally set free after he spent over two decades of his life behind bars, serving time for a crime he did not commit.
The authorities arrested and convicted Shaurn Thomas for participating in the murder of Puerto Rican businessman Domingo Martinez in 1990. The victim was reportedly shot while taking $25,000 to a check-cashing store.
However, Thomas didn't kill Martinez — in fact, he wasn’t even present at the scene.
The 44-year-old was released from a prison in Frackville, Pennsylvania, after 24 years when courts found the evidence used against him back in 1993 was not sound.
On the day of the horrific killing, Thomas was at a center for juvenile offenders for an unrelated offense. Though he had a defense from the start of his case, his attorney wasn’t able to influence the jury and he was given a life sentence.
The Philadelphia Innocence Project picked up the case approximately 10 years ago and successfully fought for Thomas' freedom.
Thomas, who was jailed at the age of 20, was delighted to reunite with his fiancé, Stephonia Long, and his family after years of suffering.
He celebrated with Long and his lawyers and said he holds nothing against the authorities who denied him justice for such a long time.
“It's going to be a good day,” Long said. “Everyone is very happy.”
Thomas called the two decades he lost a “tragedy,” but insisted that “life is too short” to hold a grudge and said he just wants to enjoy life a free man now.
“I feel wonderful, a free man. I can't feel no better,” he said.
“Hey man, just got to believe in God, and had the right legal team, and keep fighting. I don't got no animosity towards nobody. What for? Life's too short for that. You can't get it back,” he explained, mentioning how thankful he was to get his life 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.”
Having missed out on all the latest technology while in prison, he said, “I got to use a cell phone for the first time. It felt funny, but it was a wonderful thing.”
"We are so grateful to our partners in righting this terrible injustice," said Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.