Can you imagine being convicted and locked away for a crime that you did not commit? Sadly, it happens more often than we realize. Not only does this impact the life of the innocent person who must then waste precious life behind bars, but that also means the real criminal is still out there in most cases.
DeMarlo Antwin Berry, a 42-year-old Nevada man, has been released from prison after spending 23 years in a cell. Here’s the catch: he did not even commit the crime in which he was doing time for.
Upon being released, he realized that he could no longer recognize the Las Vegas streets that he used to roam. He said that he felt “a little overwhelmed” by all the changes made since he was only 19-years-old.
Berry said, “It was a surreal moment, just taking it all in,” as he sat next to his wife and lawyers who fought for years to prove his innocence. Berry added that he looks forward to steak-and-fries and that he wants to live a normal life and go to barber school. Barbering is a skill he picked up while in prison to keep himself working hard.
Berry said, “I figured that in order to be a better person than I was when I came in, you have to learn to do something different,” he continued, “so I took it upon myself to learn a trade. Barbering.”
He had with him only his release papers and a debit card for his prison commissary account. His lifelong girlfriend-turned-wife, Odilia, was there.
“It means everything to me,” said Odilia Berry, wearing a necklace bearing the word “Amazin” and offering her thanks to God that her husband was free.
The dismissal of Berry’s conviction came after Steven Jackson, now 45 and serving life without parole in California for his conviction in a separate murder in 1996, confessed to Samantha Wilcox, a lawyer from Salt Lake City working on Berry’s case for free with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center.
Berry’s legal team also found a former jailhouse informant, Richard Iden, who recanted his trial testimony that Berry told him he’d killed Carl’s Jr. restaurant manager Charles Burkes.
“They really did the job. They did the footwork. If they weren’t as thorough as they were, we wouldn’t be here,” Berry said as he sat in a posh Las Vegas law office. “I’d just be another number in prison.”
Unfortunately, Nevada is one of 18 states that do not offer compensation for a wrongful conviction. That in itself is wrong. Especially since there are so many people who are wrongly put behind bars. Rocky Mountain Innocence Center legal director Jensie Anderson estimated that about four percent, or more than 500, of the 13,500 inmates currently in Nevada prisons are actually innocent.
Although it is too soon to know whether or not Berry will sue over his wrongful incarceration, he has stated that he is not angry. “Forgiving is, I guess, a large word,” he continued, “I just want to continue with life. I have a second chance at life, and I’ll take the opportunity.”
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