A Brooklyn man whose murder conviction was thrown out by a federal judge last week was released without bail Wednesday after serving 22 years in prison.
"Sir, you are free to go," Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Guy Mangano said to William Lopez, who walked from the defense table into the arms of his wife and brother.
Outside, Lopez's lawyer Richard Levitt handed him a MetroCard.
"I've never seen one of these before, only on television," Lopez said, "but I'll learn how to use it."
"It feels great to be back on earth and I'm looking forward to restarting my life as best I can. I'll probably just take a nice breath of fresh air. Cold air."
Lopez, 54, has always maintained he was innocent of the shotgun killing of a Elvirn Surria in a Brighton Beach crackhouse on Aug. 31, 1989.
Federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that Lopez should receive a new trial because his lawyer failed to call alibi witnesses and the drug-addled witness who fingered him as the gunman has since recanted.
"The prosecution's evidence was flimsy to begin with and has since been reduced to rubble by facts arising after the trial," Garaufis wrote.
But Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes isn't throwing in the towel yet.
Prosecutors are appealing Garaufis's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals while it conducts a further investigation of the facts, said Hynes' spokesman Jerry Schmetterer.
"If necessary, the People will re-try the defendant on the pending murder charge," Schmetterer said in a statement.
Lopez's wife Alice called the conviction an "injustice." Their daughter Crystal was 14-months old when Lopez went to prison and she's 25 today.
"I never lost hope," Alice Lopez said. "People told me that I should leave him, but I traveled everywhere he was sent to see him. We knew one day he was coming home."
3 Things You Can Do to End Police Killings and Fix the Criminal Justice System
December 10, 2014
Matthew Cooke and Adrian Grenier
We're doing a lot of talking. That's good. Now let's make them accountable.
Since the shooting of Mike Brown, more than 14 black teens have been killed by the police, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a boy in Cleveland, Ohio who was murdered less than two seconds after police arrived at a playground to answer a 911 call related to a black child carrying a pellet gun.
If you're a black teenager you're 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than if you're white. So we've been talking about racism.
Exonerated but not free: What do we owe the wrongfully convicted?
November 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM EST
The toll of the justice system on the wrongfully convicted
The toll of varied laws for compensation for the wrongfully convicted is examined.
In the US, state laws governing compensation for wrongfully convicted people vary significantly. While some states offer sizable packages for the exonerated, at least 20 offer nothing. And even for those that do, it may not be enough to make up for the emotional damage on those who've been wrongfully convicted. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
Chabad of the Shore
September 4, 2015
Chabad of the Shore, a Jewish community organization in Long Branch, NJ, hosted a dinner and invited Jeffrey Deskovic to be the guest speaker, followed by Q&A.
August 31, 2015
Jeffrey Deskovic was honored with being invited to speak at TEDxMartha's Vineyard along with other preeminent leaders, thinkers, and doers.
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, which now has given birth local, self-organized TEDx events on a global scale. TEDxMartha's Vineyard is a day of talks, performances, and community building on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts each August.