One year of freedom after 4 decades behind bars: wrongfully convicted man shares his story

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Exactly one year ago, Ledura Watkins walked out of prison a free man after being wrongfully convicted of murder.

Watkins, now 62 years old, served almost 42 years of his life behind bars.

It was on April 15, 1976 when his life was turned upside down.

At that time prosecutors used a single strand of hair to convict Watkins, but when attorneys at Cooley Law School decided to take on his case in their “Innocence Project,” they found that the hair comparison evidence used to lock Watkins behind bars did not meet today’s scientific and legal standards.

The prosecutor’s office agreed and that was enough to prove his innocence. Watkins says he couldn’t be more grateful to have his life back. And says tt feels like yesterday when he regained his freedom.

“It was a great day you know I’ll never forget it, I felt good you know we left there and later that day we went and ate and just sat down and enjoyed music, enjoyed food and laughed,” said Watkins.

While the experience was surreal, Watkins says it was a stir of mixed emotions. His family members had passed on and the world was such a different place, but a journey he says he’ll never take for granted.

“For so long I was living in a box. Every day out here, every experience I look at it like a blessing,” Watkins stated.

Watkins says when he was sentenced to life in prison, the days turned into months and the months turned into years but through it all he never lost hope.

He says it was the memories of his family that got him through.

“Even though they were no longer here, I know what they expected of me and there was no way I could give up especially after so much fight that they gave for me,” said Watkins.

Right now Watkins is working and living in Detroit trying to make up the life he lost for nearly 42 years.

And he has this message for those who are like him…living an innocent life behind bars. 

“Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep looking for the answers, don’t concentrate so much on the problem…look for your solution,” Watkins stated.

Watkins was 20 years old when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole and is now 62 years old.

He says he’s taking things one day at a time and promises to be an advocate for those wrongfully convicted of crimes.

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