NEW YORK CITY (CNN) – After nearly 23 years behind bars for murder, a New York native walked free on Tuesday.
A judge overturned Eliseo DeLeon conviction after DeLeon maintained his innocence and claimed his confession was forced by a former NYPD detective.
“Martin Luther King said it best. free at last, free at last,” DeLeon said.
DeLeon hasn’t been able to go for a walk in 23 years.
“It feels great, it does,” he said.
When DeLeon first walked into a Brooklyn courthouse he was in chains on Tuesday, he was in chains.
He was convicted in 1996 of second-degree murder in the killing of Fausto Cordero.
Since then, he’s been fighting from prison for his freedom.
“Mr. DeLeon stands before you as a 42-year-old man who went to jail as an 18-year-old child,” Cary London said.
The case against DeLeon was worked by two now-infamous retired NYPD detectives – Louis Scarcella and Stephen Chmil.
Both men have stood by their investigative work, even as more than a dozen of the murder convictions they helped secure have been thrown out.
In DeLeon’s case…
“Scarcella had everything to do with this. He took the confession,” said London.
DeLeon always maintained that he never confessed to Detective Scarcella.
Earlier this year, DeLeon handwrote a legal motion in a prison library.
A judge granted his request for a new hearing.
Judge Dena Douglass overturned DeLeon’s murder conviction and he was set free.
There were hugs from his family and his legal team and for the first time, DeLeon held his baby niece.
While DeLeon’s conviction was tossed out, his legal fight is not over.
The District Attorney’s office tells local news they may re-try the case.
For now, DeLeon is free on bail and ready to reconnect.
“Only thing I can do is go out there and be a productive citizen of society,” he said.
While in prison, DeLeon earned a college degree.
He says he wants to go to law school.