Wrongly-Convicted Man Free After 24 Years Behind Bars - NBC 10 Philadelphia
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Wrongly-Convicted Man Free After 24 Years Behind Bars

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Rosemarie DeFino-Nastasi vacated Shaurn Thomas’ conviction and sentence, paving the way for his release early Tuesday evening.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A Philadelphia man spent more than two decades behind bars for a crime that he did not commit. Only NBC10 was with Shaurn Thomas for his first full day of freedom. NBC10’s Erin Coleman has the story.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    A Philadelphia man imprisoned for nearly a quarter century for a crime he did not commit is now free.

    Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Rosemarie DeFino-Nastasi vacated Shaurn Thomas’ conviction and sentence, paving the way for his release early Tuesday evening.

    NBC10 was there as Thomas embraced his family members.

    Man Freed Thanks in Part to Innocence ProjectMan Freed Thanks in Part to Innocence Project

    Philadelphia's Shaurn Thomas spent his first morning as a free man Wednesday after 24 years behind bars. NBC10's Pamela Osborne tells us how he fought for his freedom with the help of some attorneys.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    "It's been a struggle," Thomas said. "Hard struggle. Just can't give up. That's why I'm here today."

    In 1994, a jury convicted Thomas of murder in the 1990 killing of Domingo Martinez that happened when Thomas was just 16 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison.

    Thomas called his time behind bars a learning experience.

    Free at Last: Wrongly Convicted Man Speaks About Life After PrisonFree at Last: Wrongly Convicted Man Speaks About Life After Prison

    Shaurn Thomas is beginning his first full day of freedom with us here in the NBC10 studios after he spent 24 years behind bars for a murder he didn't commit.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    "I learned a lot in prison, I learned... maturity, I learned to respect things and I learned that family will be there -- no matter what -- at the end of the day," Thomas told NBC10.

    Thomas and his mother, Hazeline Thomas, insisted he was elsewhere at the time of the killing, according to a news release from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and Dechert law firm, which worked pro bono on the case.

    "Shaurn engaged in a decades’ long struggle to prove his innocence," attorney James Figorski said. "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."

    Wrongly Convicted Man Free After 24 YearsWrongly Convicted Man Free After 24 Years

    A man who served 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is a free man. NBC10's Jim Rosenfield tells the story of his path to freedom.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    Authorities threw out the conviction in 2015 after a witness admitted to lying about Thomas' role in the killing.

    His mother said Thomas fought every day in prison to clear his name.

    "I'm proud because ... he was innocent and he did something about it," she said.

    "It is gratifying to know that we were able to help Shaurn Thomas obtain his freedom after witnessing the injustice to which he was subjected," Figorski said. "All of us are ecstatic that Shaurn Thomas will finally be free with his family."

    The Philadelphia's District Attorney's Office has until a June 13 hearing to decide if they plan on retrying Thomas.

    First Day of FreedomFirst Day of Freedom

    NBC10’s Pamela Osborne gets the feelings and firsts of Shaurn Thomas on his first full day of freedom after being released from prison after 24 years spent behind bars for a murder he says he didn't commit.

    (Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

    While they couldn't get back the last 24 years of Thomas’ life, his legal team was glad to give the now 43-year-old a future.

    "We are so grateful to our partners in righting this terrible injustice," said Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

    "Dechert has been a champion for Shaurn, with the team tirelessly working on finding the truth and proving him innocent. We are all so overwhelmed by this result. While we cannot get back the last quarter century of his life for Shaurn, we can give him a future."

    Thomas told NBC10 that future doesn't include plans for a permanent return to Philadelphia.

    "Philadelphia caused me too many heartaches," he said. "You can always remember the truth. Can't remember a lie. That's what set me free today." 

    While he won't return permanently he still took the time to explore the city again on Wednesday. He visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art and took a tour of the NBC10 studios. He also reflected on the fact that for the first time in more than two decades, he has the freedom to choose what he wants to do.

    "Get to smell the trees and see the sun," Thomas said while smiling.

    Most importantly, Thomas is getting the chance to get reacquainted with the loved ones who stuck by his side and helped keep him going. 

    "Family, prayer, hope," he said. "Keep writing. Keep fighting. Never give up."