Today, Two More Wrongly Imprisoned Men Took Their First Steps as Free Men
|Photos by Kimberly Thorpe|
|Claude Simmons and Christopher Shun Scott outside the House of Blues, shortly after their release from prison today. Check out more photos here in our slide show.|
"It's just a glorious day for me," Scott told Unfair Park. He spoke of feeling some bitterness towards those who sent him away for so long for a crime he did not commit: "I can forgive, but not forget." And yet, he's at peace. "I just got to keep praying for it," he said.
|Zeddie Rucker, Chris Scott's mother, said today, "I knew I did not raise a killer." For years, she said, she told her son, "Don't let your faith waiver."|
Since their arrests 12 years ago, both men maintained their innocence; one year ago, university-run groups devoted to proving prisoners' innocence championed their cause and convinced the Dallas County District Attorney -- and, ultimately, the Dallas Police Department -- to investigate. Theirs was an extraordinary case: While 20 other men have free before them, Simmons and Scott are the first two freed without DNA evidence. And Michelle Moore at the Conviction Integrity Unit, says they will not be the last: "This is the tip of the iceberg here," she told Unfair Park. "This is where we're going to be in the future."
|The young man in the middle, wearing the pink shirt, is Scott's son, who he saw only once during his time in prison.|
Their first destination: the House of Blues. Simmons held tight to the waist of his suit pants as he heaved up the tall staircase in front of the venue. In court, his pants had dropped to the floor, but in an instant he picked them back up. After more than a decade in a state-issued jumpsuit, the suit didn't fit. "We're going to have to get you a belt," said a young lawyer, smiling.
|Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins with Simmons and Scott at their hearing this morning|
Back inside at the bar, other exonerees sat sipping non-alcoholic drinks, allowing their new friends to occupy the spot light. "They're on top of the world," said Steven Phillips, who was exonerated in August 2008. He and his girlfriend, Connie Jean Meador, sat on bar stools and sipped coffee.
Further down the bar sat Moore and exoneree No. 15, Charles Chatman. He had no problem putting himself in the shoes of the newly freed men: "[They're feeling] a whirlwind of emotions."
Moore said she had the best job in the world.
"As far as I'm concerned," Chatman interrupted. "She's the best lawyer in the world."