DETROIT (WWJ) – Ledura Watkins, who spent four decades in prison for the 1975 killing of a woman in Detroit, is now a free man.
The 61-year-old was released following a hearing Thursday, after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office determined the evidence used to convict him back in 1976 was flawed.
Marla Mitchell-Cichon, director of Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School Innocence Project, explained police used a single hair to tie Watkins to the killing — but prosecutors now say conclusions made in the 1970s don’t match current scientific standards. Also, a witness recanted his testimony.
“Every wrongful conviction that is set aside is a complete miracle, “Mitchell-Cichon said.
Watkins was 20 years old when he was sentenced to life without parole. He no longer stands accused of any crime and is not considered a suspect in the case.
What was going through his mind when he stepped outside the Wayne County Jail today?
“It’s really surreal, you know? It’s kinda unbelievable,” Watkins told WWJ’s Charlie Langton. “But I feel great.”
“I expected for this to happen,” he added. “I didn’t think that it would take 41-plus years…but here we are, and we’re just fulfilling what’s supposed to happen.”
Watkins’ second cousin Diondre Windham told reporters he was amazed at the resolve that Watkins displayed during this drawn out ordeal.
“The statement that he made that, you know, I’m not a perfect brother, not a perfect son, but I did not commit this crime,” Windham said. “Just to know his determination throughout the struggle is a message to say that you never give up and you never quit until the fight is over.”
What does Watkins have planned for his first meal?
“I like a lot of foods, so…tonight we’re going to eat some Chinese,” he said. “But there’s some more stuff I wanna try too. As you can see, I’m not slacking on the appetite.”
First order of business: He wants to give his mother a hug.
© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.