July 4: Celebrating Freedom For The Wrongfully Incarcerated

In 1989, I was wrongly convicted of a double homicide in New York,
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Photos: University of Michigan\Facebook\Twitter

In the following statement, Innocence Project exoneree Shabaka Shakur, from New York, shares some thoughts about freedom as we observe the July 4th holiday.

When I was exonerated and freed in 2015 after 27 years of wrongful incarceration, it took about four months for my freedom to really hit me.

I remember it vividly: I was driving in my neighborhood on Halloween and I saw kids and their parents in costumes, walking from house to house trick-or-treating. For some reason, that image really struck me and made me realize I was actually free. Being home after so many years is a surreal experience for incarcerated people, because it’s something you dream about every single day.

So for wrongly incarcerated people like me, freedom is something I never take for granted.

While many across the country will be celebrating the Fourth of July, it’s important to remember that there are so many people who, just like me, have been robbed of their freedom and are locked up for crimes they didn’t commit. That’s why I made a video sharing what freedom means to me, and how I celebrate it every single day — take a moment today to watch it.

In 1989, I was wrongly convicted of a double homicide in New York, based in part on fabricated testimony from former Brooklyn homicide detective Louis Scarscella.

While incarcerated, I met a man named Derrick Hamilton. We spent a lot of time together learning and researching the law with the hope of being able to prove our innocence. It was during this time that we discovered that Louis Scarcella played a key role in both of our convictions. It took decades, but we were finally both exonerated in 2015.

Since then, allegations of misconduct, including mishandling of evidence and witnesses have led judges to overturn 11 of Detective Scarcella’s convictions.

Today, I celebrate freedom by living life, traveling as much as I can and spending time with the people I love. One of the things my experience has taught me is to always give the people in my life their flowers while we’re here — never take a moment with your loved ones for granted, because you never know when they can be taken from you.

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