DETROIT (WXYZ) — Sent to prison for more than two and a half decades for a murder he did not commit, a Detroit man gets his first taste of freedom walking out of prison after the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office grants him relief.
After more than 25 years in prison, Larry Smith walked out of state prison doors in a moment his family has waited so long for.
He was just 18 years old when he was convicted of first-degree murder and felony firearms, and sentenced to life without parole.
“I was an innocent man suffering in prison,” Smith said while reflecting back on the injustice he’s lived since March 1994.
Detroit police claimed he was behind a shooting murder on Annabelle, despite a lack of witness testimony and forensic evidence. Prosecutors back then instead relied on a later discredited jail informant who said Smith confessed to him.
Today, as a free man, Smith tells the public, “I’m grateful to every one of you. Thank you. Keep pushing. Fighting. Striving. Keep standing and walking tall.”
His mother Deborah Smith, adding, “I’m just excited. There’s no words to explain how I feel.”
Among those cheering on Smith is Darrell Siggers. The two spent time locked up together and Siggers also found freedom after a wrongful conviction, thanks to hard work by the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit.
“In this case, we found so many things that were disturbing, we couldn’t stand behind the verdict,” said Dir. Valerie Newman with the integrity unit.
Another advocate, attorney Wolf Mueller, was not involved in Smith’s case but says three clients of his were also wrongfully convicted of murder. He too credits the CIU for helping set them free.
“It’s bittersweet," Mueller said. "This man lost 26 years of his life. But, it’s so good for his family to see the justice system can work after it’s been broken.”
The Conviction Integrity Unit continues to review more cases as part of their ongoing mission to advocate for those wrongfully convicted.