A convicted murderer was declared innocent and set free this week after spending more than two decades in a Pennsylvania prison.
Shaurn Thomas, 43, was released from the State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday afternoon after being jailed for 24 years for a murder he did not commit, his attorneys said.
Thomas was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of Domingo Martinez, a Philadelphia businessman who was shot in 1990 while trying to cash $25,000 check, according to news reports covering the killing. Thomas had maintained that he was at a correctional center for youth offenders in connection with an unrelated case on the day of the murder, but that did not sway the jury.
The law firm Dechert LLP, which represented Thomas on a pro bono basis, said in a statement that sign-in logs at the center had “vanished by the time of the trial.”
In an interview after his release, Thomas told ABC’s Philadelphia affiliate WPVI that his imprisonment taught him how to keep fighting.
“I feel wonderful, a free man. I can’t feel no better,” Thomas said. “Hey man, just got to believe in God, and had the right legal team, and keep fighting.”
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said it agreed to vacate the conviction.
“We will continue to review this case and make a decision regarding retrial in the very near future,” the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Tuesday.
Dechert attorney James Figorski, a former police officer with the Philadelphia Police Department, said he decided to take on Thomas’ case in 2011 after reviewing several cases as a volunteer with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization.
The organization has helped to free or win new trials for nine people since its founding in 2009, according to Dechert.
“Shaurn engaged in a decades’ long struggle to prove his innocence,” Figorski said in a statement. “I joined him in that struggle, and many times it seemed that we would never succeed and he would remain in prison for the rest of his life.”
Figorski said it was “gratifying” to know that he was able to help Thomas obtain freedom.
As for Thomas, he said he is simply trying to remain positive and move on with his life.
“I don’t got no animosity towards nobody. What for? Life’s too short for that,” Thomas told WPVI. “I just move on forward. It’s a tragedy that happened to me, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.”