Willie Stokes, 61, was released from a state prison near Philadelphia on Tuesday after serving 37 years for a crime he insists he didn’t commit, USA Today reports.
In 1984, detectives allegedly offered Franklin Lee sex and drugs in exchange for false testimony against Stokes during the trial for the killing of Leslie Campbell. The detectives are now both deceased.
Lee, who was already in police custody for unrelated rape and murder charges, admitted that detectives assured him that his testimony would lighten his sentence. Lee, a neighbor of Stokes, said the now 61-year-old confessed to killing Campbell while playing dice.
Back in November, Lee told a federal judge that he “fell weak and went along with the offer,” NPR reports.
Despite Lee recanting his confession during the murder trial, Stokes was still convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Lee, however, was charged with perjury for his initial testimony against Stokes and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Lee was officially released from prison two years ago and now works as a supervisor for an assembly line. He eventually apologized to Stokes in court “for the problem [he] caused.”
“Today is a tremendous day. We’re all very thankful,” Stokes’ lawyer, Michael Diamondstein said.
“However, it’s also a sad day, because it reminds us of how lawless, unfair and unjust Philadelphia law enforcement was for so long,” he added.
Stokes told NBC 10 after being released from State Correctional Institute Chester that he couldn’t “wait to go home to see my mother.”
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner has not yet decided to retry Stokes. A decision, however, should be made before Jan. 26.