Innocent American released after 31 years after witness began to doubt

An American man who was sentenced to life in prison 31 years ago has been found innocent and released yesterday. It concerns 55-year-old Thomas Raynard James. He was found guilty of murder after a robbery in 1991. The only eyewitness in the case, however, went back on her statement after all these years.

On January 17, 1990, two men broke into a Miami apartment for a robbery, in which a man was shot and killed. After several tips, the police found out during an investigation that the perpetrator would be called ‘Thomas James’ or ‘Tommy James’. The namesake is said to have planned the robbery. The tip made Thomas Raynard James a suspect and was ‘recognized’ by an eyewitness. As a result, he eventually received a life sentence.

The witness was Dorothy Walton, the dead victim’s stepdaughter. She was also present in the apartment at the time of the murder. She stated at the time: “I am sure it is him (Thomas Raynard James, ed.) I will never forget his face and eyes.” Based on that testimony, James was ultimately convicted. Other evidence that he allegedly committed the murder was never found.

All the while, James denied being guilty. He would also never have visited the apartment where the murder took place. The efforts of his relatives to get him released were in vain all these years. Things eventually changed when Walton began to question her testimony in 2019. Walton, now 79, said he was concerned about a possible mistake and did not want to “take it to the grave”.

Walton eventually cooperated in a lawsuit to get James released. On Wednesday, the judge ruled that James had been imprisoned by ‘coincidence’ and is ‘factually innocent. It is still unclear who the perpetrator was.

James’ lawyer said another man named Tommy James has told investigators he had planned an apartment robbery with his cousin Vincent Williams. However, Tommy James was in prison at the time of the murder. According to Tommy James, Williams eventually told him that he and another man had committed a robbery and murder. Williams has since passed away and the other man denies having been involved.

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