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3 men freed decades after wrongful conviction

There was finally justice for three men who spent the past two decades in prison for a crime they did not commit.

There was finally justice for three men who spent the past two decades in prison for a crime they did not commit.

They had become known as the “East Cleveland Three” after they were sentenced in 1996 for the murder of Clifton Hudson.

On Monday, Eugene Johnson, Derrick Wheatt, and Laurese Glover all woke up bracing for the possibility of a new trial.

Instead, the judge dismissed their case altogether and freed them.

It was found there had been misconduct at the time of the original trial, when a prosecutor allegedly wrote a letter to police, urging them to conceal records. Key witnesses were also kept from the jury.

One witness later changed her testimony.

Yet neither that, nor time, seems to have hardened the men. In fact, it only made them stronger.

“So much was taken from us,” Eugene Johnson said. “But everything happens for a reason. It made me a better person.”

He said he found strength in the late Nelson Mandela throughout his incarceration.

“God delivered him from that situation,” Johnson said. “He was like an idol to me. So his story gave me a lot of strength.”

They know they will still need strength now as they return to day-to-day life.

“We’ve got a 20-year gap to where we never worked,” Laurese Glover said.

Derrick Wheatt just wishes his parents could have lived long enough to see him freed.

“But you know, they’re with me,” he said. “They’re up there with me.”

All men have tremendous gratitude and respect for the Innocence Project, which dedicated 10 years to seeing their case through.