A 46-year-old Chicago man was released from prison on Tuesday after being acquitted of a murder charge from 1991.
After spending 26 years behind bars, Patrick Prince was embraced by friends and family, including his daughter, outside of the Cook County prison.
Prince was 19 years old when he was charged.
“It’s going to take some getting used to again. But at the moment, I’m holding. I’m sleep-deprived. Just trying to get back re-acclimated to society,” Prince told Chicago TV station Fox32.
According to a court order, a man named Edward Porter was shot and killed on a sidewalk on August 28, 1991. Police received an anonymous tip just a few weeks later which pointed the finger at Prince.
Once he was brought to the police station, Prince confessed to the murder and was arrested. His confession was the only piece of evidence used against him.
The Exoneration Project, a group of lawyers focused on proving innocent cases, took interest in Prince’s situation and took him on as a client.
They claim that when Prince was brought in for questioning, he was physically and verbally abused until he falsely confessed, reciting a story that was spoon-fed to him by a detective named Kriston Kato.
In an article published by the organization, they said that Kato had a longstanding “pattern and practice” when it came to getting confessions out of suspects. Since Prince’s trial, over 30 people have claimed that Det. Kato beat or coerced them in his efforts to obtain confessions.
According to the Exoneration Project, Kato had been recently asked to testify at a hearing related to the case and was thoroughly impeached. When asked whether he would solve crimes “by any means necessary,” Kato stated plainly: “That was my job.”
Lawyers representing Prince also brought new evidence to the case: the informant who had tipped off police about Prince’s involvement in the shooting admitted he had lied.
The presiding judge, Judge Thaddeus L. Wilson, wrote in his court order that based on the new evidence and lack of physical or forensic evidence, Prince should be granted a new trial. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office dismissed the charges instead.
Prince maintained his innocence throughout t his 26-year sentence. He also encouraged others who have been falsely accused to remain optimistic.
“I’m happy to be out. To the rest of the guys who’re locked up still fighting their wrongful convictions, keep fighting,” he said.