LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — A man who spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit enjoyed his first full day of freedom on Tuesday.
John Smith, 37, was cleared and released Monday after a judge decided he didn’t kill a man in a 1993 drive-by shooting at 17th Street and Rimpau Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Smith, who was 18 years old at the time of the incident, admitted to being a gang member, but maintained his innocence.
“I knew I was innocent and I knew they couldn’t prove that I did anything…I just needed someone to point it out,” he said.
The only witness who pointed the finger at Smith, Landu Mvuemba, was a victim who was shot and survived.
In 2010, Deirdre O’Connor from Innocence Matters ordered the key witness to undergo polygraph tests, which resulted in him recanting his testimony.
Mvuemba said he identified Smith as the shooter after police pressured him into doing so.
Smith believes the justice system is flawed, but said his story is bittersweet because the same system that locked him up also set him free.
“I can’t be dwelling on the negative…too blessed to be stressed!” he said.
Smith said he’s discovering a whole new world outside the prison cell at his home in Mid-City.
“It’s not even 24 hours yet, so I’m processing it all. I know it’s bright out here,” he said. “It’s got new buildings, spruced up a little bit, not as much writing on the walls, that’s a good thing.”
Smith also said he can’t stop eating pizza.
Meantime, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department will form a team to thoroughly investigate the circumstances of Smith’s case.
(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)