A Black man from Queens has been released from prison after being incarcerated for 25 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
According to ABC 7, Jaythan Kendrick was exonerated on Thursday and released from incarceration. Kendrick, who is now 62, maintained his innocence from the start, and it took years of support from his legal team, the Innocence Project, and his cousin to secure his release.
“I’m very ecstatic, to be back here because Queens is my home, I’m happy to be free,” Kendrick told reporters outside the Queens Courthouse.
Kendrick was initially arrested and charged with murder that took place in Long Island City, 26 years ago this November. An elderly woman was stabbed to death during a purse robbery and investigators focused on the fact that a black purse was found in Kendrick’s apartment.
DNA testing wasn’t done on the purse at the time, and according to NBC 4, testing done years later found that DNA recovered from under the victim’s fingernails didn’t match Kendrick’s and that the purse belonged to his roommate at the time.
So basically, had they just ran a simple DNA test 25 years ago, an innocent man would’ve been allowed to live his life freely. Hell, they might have actually found the person who did commit the crime. Instead, this is where we are.
Kendrick alleged that the prosecutor at the time was aware of his innocence but decided to proceed with the case anyway. “He knew I was innocent and he did this to move up the ladder,” Kendrick told reporters.
New witnesses were presented during the trial, and the only witness to the crime 26 years ago, a then-10-year-old boy, provided new testimony. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Joseph Zayas apologized to Kendrick on behalf of the entire court for the injustice he had to endure.
“I think it is important for me to say sorry to you,” Zayas said. “Even as I recognize that this apology comes way too late.”
Kendrick, now a free man, is looking forward to finally having a normal Thanksgiving. “Twenty-six years ago on Thanksgiving, I got arrested,” he told reporters. “So I’m looking forward to turkey right now.”