A Florida man wrongfully convicted of rape has been released after 18 years in prison.
ABC Action News reports that Derrick Williams was set free earlier this month after officials determined that DNA evidence was enough to prove him innocent of the sexual assault.
"I fell out on the floor in there. I fell on the floor and thanked God for it," Derrick told reporters. A judge handed down a decision to overturn his conviction after it was also found that Derrick’s due process was violated as the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office destroyed evidence that would have eliminated him from the field of suspected rapists.
Despite just cause, the Florida man was not noticeably bitter as he exited the Hardee County Correction Facility. He sees the judge’s new decision, nearly two decades in the making, as vindication of his innocence. "I know and God knows the truth," said Derrick, who was released around the same time as his son’s birthday.
The Florida State Attorney’s office said that re-trying Derrick would not be in the best interest of the victim, who picked Derrick out of a police lineup, twice, years earlier. Now a free man, Derrick said that the first order of business for him was to find a job and get his life back on track.
"I’ve got a journey ahead," Derrick said. "It’s going to be a long road, but it’s going to be a sweet one with all these [people] behind me."
– Sonya Eskridge