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Florida court vacates life sentence of man after more than 30 years

Thomas James has been behind bars since 1991 after the murder of Francis McKinnon in South Florida.

MIAMI — After spending more than 30 years behind bars for a murder he maintains he didn't commit, a judge vacated his life sentence.

Thomas Raynard James, now 55-years-old, said he had been wrongfully convicted in the 1990 death of Francis McKinnon. James said he believed the day would come someday. 

Surrounded by his family and friends, he called this day the greatest feeling in the world.

"Truth always come out," James said. "I had people that believed in me and you can never be as strong as your weakest link."

On Wednesday, Miami State Attorney Katherine Rundle announced she was petitioning the Florida court to commute the life sentence of Thomas James. 

James was convicted in 1991. Now, years later, Rundle says the state attorney's office is "undoing an injustice" by proclaiming James' innocence and asking for his jail sentence to be commuted and give him "the freedom he deserves."

Rundle recognized the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office Justice Project for its tireless work looking into James' case and working to prove his innocence. The state attorney said the man likely responsible for McKinnon's murder has died, meaning true justice for his family won't happen. 

But for James, these new developments mean he could soon be able to start his life anew as a free man. 

James was 23 years old when he was convicted by a jury for McKinnon's murder, according to attorneys.

Rundle said the original prosecution team in 1991 relied heavily on one woman's positive identification of James in a lineup. Dorothy Walton, told the Miami Herald at the time, "I will not forget that man’s face.” 

The woman, as recent as a few weeks ago, has now said she is no longer certain the man she saw was in fact James, Rundle said. 

James said he forgives Walton because he doesn't think she did it intentionally.

When asked what's next for James, he said, "The world."

You can watch the full news conference here:

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