Oklahoma Man Freed After 26 Years In Prison Shares His New Mission
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma man is free for the first time in 26 years thanks to DNA evidence.
Johnny Edward Tallbear’s murder conviction was vacated and he was released Monday, thanks to DNA evidence.
“I'm so relieved from this,” Tallbear said after leaving the courtroom.
That relief is something Tallbear hasn’t felt as a prisoner for the past quarter of a century.
“Many trials and tribulations over the past 27 years,” Tallbear said.
Those trials and tribulations started in 1992, when Tallbear was convicted in the murder of a homeless man.
He always maintained his innocence, and The Innocence Project took notice.
“Mr. Tallbear was convicted based on an eyewitness identification from a man who was about a football field-away at dusk. He saw two men beating another man on the ground,” Senior Staff Attorney at The Innocence Project, Karen Thompson said.
New DNA evidence provided blood samples, likely of those two unknown men.
The samples didn’t belong to anyone in the justice system.
Neither sample matched Tallbear.
District Attorney David Prater worked with a judge to vacate the conviction.
“We think this is the right thing to do and that's what we're going to do every single time,” District Attorney David Prater said.
Tallbear embraced his lawyers in the courtroom, the moment evidence finally caught up to the innocence he'd been maintaining all along.
“I believed God would do something for me and this day would come,” Tallbear said.
The first day of his freedom is also the first day of Tallbear's new mission to fight for judicial and prison reform.
“Murders, robberies, rapes, beatdowns, it's been happening since the cavemen days. Has it stopped? No, but they found a way to make money off it,” Tallbear said.
Tallbear is set to receive monetary relief from the state to help him readjust to a free life.