Two men who spent a decade in prison on murder charges were set free Thursday after a panel of judges in North Carolina ruled they were not guilty.
Pictured: Kenneth Kagonyera, left, and Robert Wilcoxson were ruled not guilty Thursday and set free after a decade in jail. (North Carolina Department of Corrections)
The three-judge panel made its decision after seven days of testimony in the case against Kenneth Kagonyera, 31, and Robert Wilcoxson, 32.
Wilcoxson was the first to be released. He hugged his 10-year-old daughter, Taneea, and his father as he walked out of jail hours after the hearing. He left quickly, saying only that his plans for his first night as a free man in nearly a decade were simple. “Pray,” he said.
Kagonyera left jail hours later to applause and hugs and kisses from his mother and grandmother.
“It was a blessing,” he said. Kagonyera said he had prepared himself for the panel to rule against his claim though he tried not to dwell on the prospect of going back to prison. He said his plans are to “get a job, move on and put this behind me.”
“I am just so happy I don’t know what to say,” said Charlene Holmes, Kagonyera’s mother.
The hearing came after the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission in April found enough evidence to indicate the men were not guilty, including the confession of another man and DNA testing that pointed to other suspects.
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Source: Jon Ostendorff, USA TODAY