- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

GARY, Ind. (AP) - A 47-year-old Gary man is readjusting to life outside of prison after he spent nearly 24 years behind bars for robbery and murder convictions that were overturned on appeal.

Willie T. Donald’s convictions were vacated and he was released from prison last week after the court ruled that a woman’s identification of Donald in the 1992 case was flawed and that Gary police hid that from Donald and his trial attorney.

Since his release, Donald has been spending time with his family, as well as learning about smartphones and other prevalent technology.

“There weren’t any smartphones in prison. People can connect more easily. The world seems smaller,” Donald said.

Today’s technology could’ve confirmed Donald’s alibi if it was available when the robbery he was implicated in took place, his defense lawyer, Thomas Vanes, told The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/23KZney ).

Donald told police that he was car shopping with his sister and brother-in-law in Merrillville and Crown Point on Feb. 27, 1992, when a series of holdups took place, one of which led to a fatal shooting, in Gary’s Glen Park neighborhood.

“Nowadays, there would be a security camera with digital recording in the showrooms or maybe at one of the homes on the streets where the robberies occurred,” Vanes said.

A jury rejected Donald’s alibi and he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent more than two decades trying to clear his name, but he said he isn’t looking back anymore.

“I’ve earned two degrees in prison in Bible studies and business management. You have to go on with your life,” Donald said.

Donald believes his lawyer deserves the credit for his exoneration and “a pat on the back” for sticking with him for all those years, he said.

Donald said the most difficult thing has been reintegrating into a world that’s a lot different than it was in 1992.

“It’s like night and day being in prison and then walking out to society,” he said.


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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