Prince Johnson, a 60-year-old Miami man, was freed from prison Friday after serving 44 years for participating in a robbery that led to the killing of a woman in 1971, the Associated Press reports.
Johnson was tried for murder as an adult and given a life sentence in 1971 when he was only 16 years old. Supreme Court rulings at the federal level and the state level in Florida require new sentencing hearings for juveniles who receive life sentences, AP explains.
Two law-enforcement officials—a prosecutor and a public defender—found that Johnson’s sentence was unlawful because Johnson did not actually shoot Marta Roman inside her husband’s ice cream truck. On Friday a judge agreed and set Johnson free.
Gale Lewis, an attorney in the public defender’s office, said she felt compelled to right the wrongs in Johnson’s case.
“I don’t know what happened back then,” Lewis said. “All I know is, we had to make it right.”
Johnson’s sister was in court when the judge set Johnson free, and vowed to exonerate her brother completely.
“It took a long time coming since 1971,” said Olive Coley, Johnson’s sister. “My brother went to jail when he was 16 years old. And one of these days, we’re gonna go through that court and prove and exonerate his name completely.
“He missed his whole life,” she continued. “He was only 16.”
Read more at the Washington Post.