PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia man who has maintained his innocence in a murder case for nearly three decades has been released from prison after a judge overturned his conviction.
Willie Veasy's long-running appeal came to an end Wednesday morning, when a judge tossed out the murder conviction, telling the 54-year-old Veasy "You're a free man," as a crowd in courtroom erupted in applause. He'd spent 27 years in prison.
"It feels wonderful. Grateful. Get to spend the rest of my life with my family, the way its always been. I get to walk out of here the same way I walked in as an innocent man," Veasy said Wednesday after his release.
Veasy's sister, Ketra, told reporters that she never lost faith that her brother would be released from prison.
"My brother is free. My brother is free, free. Can't nobody take that away from him," she said.
Veasy was convicted of fatally shooting John Lewis on a North Philadelphia street corner in 1992. He insisted all along he didn't do it, but it wasn't until the Pennsylvania Innocence Project got involved that freedom became a reality. The non-profit dug up additional evidence saying his confession was coerced.
The DA's office is now investigating whether detectives used improper techniques in this case and others to get suspects to confess to murders they did not commit.
"Innocent people shouldn't be sitting in a jail cell. It's not that hard. The system should be just, it should be fair, it should be accurate," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said.
Attorneys say Veasy also had an alibi that he was at work. They say he punched in on a time clock at a Jenkintown restaurant at the time of the murder and an eyewitness admitted she has bad eyesight.
"I was able to hold onto my sanity for years and with family like this, it's all you need," Veasy said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.