A Philadelphia man in jail the last 10 years for a shooting that left a boy paralyzed was released Wednesday after three years of appeals led a judge and the city District Attorney to find that he was wrongly convicted.
Donte Rollins, now 29, waited at the Criminal Justice Center for several hours in the morning and afternoon before documents finally came from Graterford State Prison in Montgomery County that granted him his freedom.
Rollins had been locked up since 2006 for a shooting that year in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city. Jabar Wright, who was 6-years-old at the time, was left paralyzed in the gunfire.
Marissa Boyers Bluestine, Rollins' attorney and legal director at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, said Rollins spent the last three years appealing for his freedom and that an appeals judge on Tuesday ordered him released based on evidence that his initial defense attorney failed to present at the original trial.
District Attorney Seth Williams agreed with the appeal judge's ruling and said Wednesday he would not seek a new trial.
"This is something he should never have been arrested for," Bluestine said while waiting at the Criminal Justice Center late Wednesday morning. "There is evidence that should have been presented at length. It's an egregious violation and his release is a long time coming."
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Bluestine and Rollins' family waited at the CJC all morning and afternoon as he was only a few signatures away from freedom.
"We are doing everything we can to have him released as soon as possible without having to go back to Graterford," Bluestine said in the hours leading up to the release.
Eventually, about 5 p.m., he walked out the front doors of the downtown judicial building. Rollins smiled as he embraced his mother.
"It was messed up what happened to me but it's over now so I'm going to start my life," he said.
Jabar Wright's mother Alicia Wright expressed mixed emotions during an exclusive interview with NBC10 Wednesday night.
"Tired, confused and outraged," she said.
Wright told NBC10 that ever since the Innocence Project took on Rollins' case, it has moved too fast and they've lost sight of the victim: her son Jabar.
"You feel like this man is innocent, let 12 jurors decide it," Wright said.
While Rollins' legal team said they are thrilled he will get to spend the holidays with his family after they worked so hard for his release, Wright said her family will continue to agonize over her son's pain.
"We're no longer the victim," Wright said. "How is it, it's the holidays. They have a holiday and my kids don't have a holiday. I don't have money. I don't have resources."