4 friends recount years spent in prison for wrongful conviction
NEW HAVEN (WTIC) -- The state has awarded four men wrongfully convicted of murder $4.2 million each. The charges, which were dismissed in 2013, relate to a 1996 shooting that left one man dead and two others injured.
Carlos Ashe, Darcus Henry, Sean Adams and Johnny Johnson spent 16 1/2 years in prison. They were all under 21 when they were convicted, and now feel as though their adult lives are just beginning.
"I got a lot of life ahead of me. That's how I feel about it," said Carlos Ashe.
The men were released from prison in 2013 after a judge dismissed their charges. They were convicted largely on the testimony of one witness who was offered a 30-year reduction on his own sentence for unrelated charges in exchange for his testimony.
See photos of the men below:
"Prosecutors hid that information from the defense team. Then one of the prosecutors who knew about this plea deal sat in and listened to that witness committing perjury, and they did nothing to correct it," said Victor Sipos, the attorney representing the four men.
On Friday, the state's claims commissioner filed a decision ordering the payment. The men sought the settlement under the state's compensation statute for wrongful conviction.
Sipos said, "It is not enough simply to open the prison doors and say, 'Go on your way' and 'Sorry we made a mistake.' This shows that the lawmakers in the state of Connecticut have compassion and they are interested in a just result."
The men said since their release they have been trying to reintegrate into society, provide for their families and move forward with their lives. But it has been very difficult for them. Particularly trying to get a job with an almost 17-year gap in their employment history.
"It's hard to explain, to tell them, 'Yeah, I went to prison for 16 years, but I was innocent,'" said Darcus Henry.
With this compensation, the men say they can finally follow their dreams.
"It happened. We got through it. We're here. We're blessed. I'm just trying to live my life," said Sean Adams.
One of their goals is to get their company 365 Entertainment off the ground. It's named after the 365-year combined total of their sentences.
They say that their wrongful convictions and time spent in prison is a part of their past they'll never be able to fully put behind them.
"It was a real traumatic experience and for it to be that traumatic, I think a person would never forget it," said Johnny Johnson.
Ashe said, "It's part of my life. It's part of my story."