Ledura Watkins, 61, wants a hug from his mom. He also wants Chinese food. On Thursday night, he’ll get them both.
Watkins, who lives in Detroit, was released from prison Thursday after serving 41 years of a now-overturned sentence. He was originally convicted of murder in 1976 based on a single piece of evidence: a piece of hair that might not be his.
According to the Associated Press, Watkins was originally convicted of first-degree murder in 1975 for killing Yvette Ingram, a schoolteacher, during a botched robbery at her home.
During Watkins’ trial, police lab analysts said they could confirm he was guilty based on a single hair found at Ingram’s house.
But in the years since, at least one witness in the case in the case has recanted his testimony, according to CBS Detroit. More importantly, FBI standards for hair comparison analysis have changed significantly since 1975.
In January, members of the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School took up Watkins’ case to argue that the evidence that landed him in jail was outdated and insufficient.
“[The hair comparison was] simply a lab analyst’s subjective opinion and has no place in our criminal justice system,” Marla Mitchell-Cichon, the school’s Innocence Project director, told the AP. “This is why a state-wide review of hair comparison cases is critical.”
On Thursday, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office conceded that the evidence they had used to prosecute Watkins was flawed. As CBS Detroit reports, Watkins “no longer stands accused of any crime and is not considered a suspect in the case.”
Watkins, who has always maintained his innocence, described his release as “really surreal” and “unbelievable.”
“I expected for this to happen,” he told CBS reporter Charlie Langton. “I didn’t think that it would take 41-plus years.”
Watkins told reporters that he had several immediate goals. First on the list: hugging his mother. After that: Chinese food.
“I like a lot of foods, so…tonight we’re going to eat some Chinese,” he said. “But there’s some more stuff I wanna try too. As you can see, I’m not slacking on the appetite.”