Man who spent 18 years in prison after wrongful conviction is free:

Although Sheldon Thomas walked out of a Brooklyn, New York courtroom earlier this month after nearly two decades in prison, freedom still doesn’t seem real to him.

“I haven’t cried since I came home,” Thomas said. “I haven’t even gotten to the point where he killed me. I still have nightmares about being in jail. I’m afraid to sleep.”

His release came after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez Moved to vacate What a recent investigation determined was a wrongful conviction.

In 2004, Thomas was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and other crimes after he was arrested for his alleged involvement in a fatal shooting in East Flatbush, which resulted in the death of 14-year-old Anderson. Bursi had died and left each other. injured person

Thomas was arrested on suspicion of murder after an eyewitness identified him from a police photograph. However, the photo was of a different person with the same name who had nothing to do with the case. Prosecutors continued to pursue Thomas, eventually leading to a wrongful conviction.

Attorneys William Caston and Leslie Resinger have worked with Thomas for more than a decade and believe the case should never have gone to trial. According to Custon, the case was based on lies. He believes every party in the system — police, prosecutors and judges, among others — failed Thomas.

“The people involved in the decision-making refused to accept the fact that there was a mistake. How can a jury reach a fair verdict? It was rigged from the beginning,” Kasten said.

After years of unsuccessful appeals, the unit reviewing Thomas’ case concluded that he had been “denied due process at every stage.”

Additionally, prosecutors said, one of the detectives involved was harassing Thomas after a prior arrest and lied about knowing him.

When asked if he had ever been targeted, Thomas replied, “Most definitely. The whole burden has been put on me to this day.”

He added that in his experience, people who look like him are often presumed guilty until proven innocent.

“From my lens where I look at life, it’s always been like that for people like me. It’s always been like that for people who look like me. You’re guilty until you’re guilty,” Thomas said. That doesn’t prove you’re innocent.”

He was arrested when he was only 16 years old. Now 35, he is finally stepping into freedom.

During a recent hearing, Thomas explained how he kept hope alive for so long by letting go of resentment. Despite the trial judge saying he deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison when he was sentenced, Thomas says he forgave him, even though he acknowledged what happened to him. He didn’t deserve it.

“I know I lost 20 years ago but I finally got over it. I don’t like losing, so I have to quit because I don’t want that to be who I am as a person, as The person makes the statement,” Thomas said. .

CBS News contacted the detective who was involved in Thomas’ initial arrest, but he chose not to comment.

After Thomas is released, he could potentially seek compensation through litigation, but he said he has not decided whether to pursue that option.

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