2 men wrongly convicted of 1999 Detroit murder released from prison

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From a life sentence to a new life. 

"I haven't lived for 20 years," said Justly Johnson. "I haven't smiled or relaxed for 20 years and I want to be able to do that."

"It was good to see everybody here and see faces I haven't seen in 20 years," said Kendrick Scott.

It is a day both Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott always had faith would come.

"It's here because I'm out here," Johnson said. "I can feel the air. I've got on clothes. I'm able to move at free will so I'm feeling excited about it."

"I knew I didn't do anything and when you are falsely accused of a crime all you can do is hope and you know it's going to come one day," said Scott.

Back in 1999 testimony from two eye witnesses sent Johnson and Scott to prison for death of 35-year-old Lisa Kindred.

She was shot and killed while sitting in her van with her kids near a gas station between Cadillac Blvd and Warren on Detroit's eastside.  Her youngest was just 10 days old.
They had been waiting for her husband to come out of his in-law's house.  A conviction for murder sent Scott and Johnson down separate but parallel paths.

"It's a blessing because we never lied on each other like the other people lied on us to get us in jail," Scott said.  "We stayed strong and now we are out together at the same time. It's a blessing."

"We were in separate prisons but we were on the same journey which was to attain our freedom and prove our innocence," Johnson said.

A path that would eventually intersect with the Michigan Innocence Clinic seven years ago..

"It's a disturbing case, a very tragic case," said Imran Syed, assistant director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic. "And the pressures to solve it and the pressure to solve it leads to miscarriages of justice like this one."

Attoneys who worked to prove their innocence discovered the victim's son was never questioned by police and that son says the two convicted his mom's death didn't do it.

This new finding along with the original witnesses recanting their testimony led the Supreme Court to overturn both convictions and request a new trial.

A new trial that was supposed to begin for these two men next week. Instead, during the final pretrial conference there on Wednesday, there was a decision to dismiss all charges and let both men go free and clear.

"We all arrived in court not knowing what would happen and I give the prosecutor a lot of credit for making this decision," Syed said. "I know there are a lot of factors involved and it's never easy."

Just like that, preparing for a trial, turned into prepping for freedom.

"To be honest with you, I just want to live and enjoy life. Breathe," Johnson said. "At the end of the day. That is it."

Freedom that comes with the same optimism which brought them to this point.

"I think the biggest reason we are here is that both of these guys were very positive and they believed in themselves and they had never given up," Syed said.

And in a small way to help them reacclimate to life on the outside, Michigan law says they are eligible to collect $50,000 for each year they were wrongly convicted of murder.