A Chicago man is finally free after spending more than 29 years in prison for a crime he insists he did not commit.
Demond Weston, 46, was released from Dixon Correctional Center last Thursday after special prosecutors dismissed the charges in his murder case, citing lack of evidence, and a judge moved to vacate his conviction, according to CBS Chicago.Weston rushed into the loving arms of family members as he said goodbye to the place he was once imprisoned.
He’s now back home with his mother, where he says he should’ve been all long.
“Best road trip ever — best trip ever,” Weston said of his two-hour ride back to Chicago, where she anxiously awaited his return. “It was taking me from a place that I didn’t want to be to a place I always wanted to be.”
The former inmate is glad to finally have his freedom, but admitted the transition could take some time.
“It’s new journey, getting familiar with the faces around me,” he added.
Weston was just 17 when he was arrested for the murder of 19-year-old Joseph Watson and three other gang-related shootings in May 1990. He’s maintained that Chicago police detectives tortured him into confessing to Watson’s killing, beating him senseless during a 12-hour interrogation.
However, Special Cook County Prosecutor Robert Milan did not cite those allegations in court Wednesday when he asked a judge to vacate Weston’s convictions for murder and attempted murder. Milan, who’s been tasked with reviewing cases of those seeking new trials amid claims of brutality and misconduct by detectives under the command of disgraced city police Cmdr. Jon Burge, called Weston’s claims of abuse “unsubstantiated.”
Burge would serve three years behind bars for lying about the torture of suspects in the ’70s and ’80s. He passed away in 2018.
Still after an extensive re-investigation of the case, Milan determined there simply wasn’t enough evidence linking Weston to the murder and shooting. Judge Angela Petrone agreed and threw out the charges.
“Everybody knew I didn’t do the crime,” Weston told CBS Chicago after his release Thursday. “The fact that I made it to prison as an innocent man, it took a lot out of me.”
The local man, who earned his GED and an associate degree while incarcerated, said he’s now focused on being the best version of himself while also serving as an example to those going through what he experienced.
“Right now, I think at this point, I can just be someone else’s hope,” said Weston, “in terms of a light that they can see and point to and say, ‘OK, he made it. And I haven’t made it just yet, but what I did today is I survived incarceration, because I was released. I was able to walk away.”
His attorney, Scott Schuette, recalled how overjoyed his client was after learning he would be freed, saying Weston was struggling to breathe.
We disagree with the conclusion on the torture … but for today, the key thing is that he’ll be free tomorrow and he’ll be home, celebrating Christmas with his family,” said Schutte.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Weston has agreed not to seek a “certificate of innocence,” which would allow him to collect up to $200,000 in compensation from the state.