A New Haven man is finally free after spending 10 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
On Wednesday, a judge vacated Marquis Jackson’s conviction in connection to a robbery and murder.
This goes all the way back to 1999 and a deadly shooting inside a New Haven deli.
Attorneys argued new evidence and cell phone records proved that Jackson and co-defendant Vernon Horn did not commit the crime.
Last week horn was set free, and on Wednesday it was Jackson’s turn.
“We came in together and we’re leaving together. We never wavered on each other. Our friendship was strong,” Jackson said on Wednesday about his friend Vernon Horn.
Jackson and Horn spent more than half their lives behind bars.
As teens, they were sentenced to 45 and 70 years respectively for the January 1999 robbery and shooting death of Caprice Hardy inside New Haven’s Dixwell deli.
“My mother, my family, the lawyers. This is a wonderful day for me. 19 years and counting. I always believed I would be exonerated. Sometimes it was shaken but I kept the faith. Kept moving forward,” Jackson said.
After new evidence was uncovered this year, specifically the records of a cell phone stolen that night, the state prosecutor called into question the conviction of the two, saying it would be difficult to re-try the case, and motioned to vacate the conviction, with a judge dismissing the charges.
“The same system that took my liberty, today gave it back, so its bittersweet. But unfortunately, there are several other men who didn’t get that break that I got today,” Jackson said.
Two key witnesses, including a third defendant placed the stolen cell phone in Horn’s hands.
But one later testified three times that he made it up.
As for the stolen phone, police say 45 minutes after the shooting, a call was made from Bridgeport around the same time Horn was at the deli talking with New Haven police.
“The cell phone evidence that convicted these gentlemen has been called into question at best, deemed patently false and because of that cell phone evidence, we now know the locations of where certain individuals were. Those individuals were not Mr. Jackson, nor Mr. Horn,” said attorney Daniel Lage.
Horn was released last week and was at court on Wednesday to support his longtime friend.
“I’m just so grateful, ecstatic and I hope the criminal justice system learns from this, I hope they learn, that my 20 years of imprisonment don’t go in vein,” Horn said.
Surrounded by family and friends, Jackson says it won’t.
“Today is the first day is the first day of my new life, and I’d like to say in the negro spiritual. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last,” Jackson said.
When asked what he wants to do his first night as a free man, Jackson says he wants to eat a good meal and go see the blockbuster superhero movie, Black Panther.
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