DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Monday dismissed the 1991 conviction of a man who spent nearly 30 years in prison for an attack on a Detroit woman in a car.
Gerry Thomas, 62, who was helped by law schools in Michigan and New York, has long maintained his innocence. The conviction integrity unit in the Wayne County prosecutor's office agreed that his conviction should be set aside.
“If the police had conducted a true investigation 30 years ago, Mr. Thomas never would have been arrested in the first place," said Jane Pucher of the Innocence Project at Yeshiva University's Cardozo law school.
The victim said she was attacked while in a car outside a convenience store in 1987. She identified Thomas two years later. Police had no physical evidence against him or any other witnesses, according to the Innocence Project.
Thomas was convicted of assault and attempted murder in 1991 and sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison.
“I am thankful and so happy to finally be going home to my family,” said Thomas, who started his day in prison but was granted freedom at the court hearing.
Pucher said the Innocence Project agreed to pursue the case in 2010. The team learned, among other things, that the victim was in a small car, a 1987 Ford Escort. Thomas was 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 240 to 260 pounds at the time.
“We took pictures of someone of similar size and stature in that car,” said Pucher, adding that it was "ridiculous” to think Thomas could have been the attacker.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy said it was “very clear” that Thomas deserved a new trial after the discovery of new evidence.
“In this case, the victim is now deceased. As a result the Wayne County prosecutor’s office is unable to re-try the case,” Worthy said.