US & Canada

Ex-officer helps exonerate US prisoner after 24 years

Shaurn Image copyright WPVI

A Philadelphia man has been exonerated and freed from prison 24 years after he was found guilty of a murder he did not commit.

Shaurn Thomas, 43, was released after the Philadelphia District Attorney's office agreed that the evidence did not support the conviction.

Mr Thomas, who was 19 when found guilty, maintained all along he was at another court hearing during the crime.

"I feel wonderful," he said as he left the prison.

He hugged his fiancee and family outside the jail in Frackville, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday evening.

"I don't got no animosity towards nobody. What for?" said Mr Thomas.

"Life's too short for that. I just move on forward.

"It's a tragedy that happened to me, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one."

Mr Thomas was jailed for the 1990 murder of a Puerto Rican businessman who was shot while trying to cash a $25,000 (£19,000) cheque.

His lawyer, former Philadelphia police sergeant James Figorski, worked pro bono for more than eight years on behalf of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to secure his release.

"Shaurn engaged in a decades' long struggle to prove his innocence," Mr 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."

Mr Thomas had said he was at a correctional centre for youth offenders in connection with an unrelated case at the time of the murder.

But the sign-in logs that would have proved his alibi went missing, and jurors did not believe his mother and sister, who said they were with him.

Homicide detectives had named several other suspects in a case file, but somehow managed to lose the document for more than two decades until it turned up only recently.

Mr Thomas insists he holds no grudges over his conviction, and is looking forward to his future, which he hopes will include a holiday on a tropical island.

"You know, time heals all wounds," he told reporters, before going for a seafood meal with family members.

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