Jaythan Kendrick has waited 25 years for this moment.
"This day I thought never would happen and that has happened," he said. "I am very ecstatic."
The Army veteran and former postal worker has spent a quarter century behind bars for a fatal stabbing near the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City, where he lived. On Thursday, that murder conviction was overturned.
“I am happy to be free again. To not have shackles, a black box. And handcuffs. That I hated the most," he said. "Now, I can go on with my life.”
Kendrick’s release came with the help of the Innocence Project — a nonprofit dedicated to exonerating people who claim to be wrongfully convicted of a crime.
No physical evidence linked Kendrick to the murder. He was identified in a lineup by a 10-year-old witness who picked Kendrick as his “second choice.”
The release came after DNA evidence and new witnesses supported his claims of innocence. No one else has been charged with the killing.
“This is a rare and special day,” said attorney Thomas Hoffman.
Kendrick’s mom and sister died while he was in prison. He takes comfort in knowing his mom always believed he was innocent.
“On my mother’s deathbed, she said, 'I dreamt that God let you go, and never let go of his hand.' She said that twice, dropped the phone and I never heard from her again. She died after that,” he said.
Kendrick acknowledged he was getting ready to enter a world that was unfamiliar, especially during the pandemic, which he said was raging behind bars. But for now, he’s mostly looking forward to an actual feast on Thanksgiving for the first time in more than two decades.
“26 years ago on Thanksgiving, I got arrested. So I guess I’m looking forward to turkey right now,” he said, laughing.
He said there is a lot to be thankful for this holiday season