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I Lost 25 Years for Something I Didn't Do

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My name is Jonathan Fleming. Almost 25 years ago, I was convicted of a murder that I didn't commit and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Can you imagine how I felt when I heard that jury say I was guilty, when I knew I was in Florida at Disney World with my family when the murder was committed? I couldn't believe what was happening. It all felt like a nightmare, but one that I could never wake up from.

I tried every day from prison to gain my freedom. I wrote letters to anyone I thought could help, but I just kept hearing "no." Every appeal I filed was denied, but I refused to give up.

This past Monday my prison counselor called me to her office and told me that I was being sent down to court. My mind was racing. I wanted to be excited, but I didn't know what was going to happen. I'd been sent down to court before, but nothing happened.

When I woke up Tuesday morning in prison, the 25-year nightmare was really over. I was put on a plane headed to Brooklyn, N.Y. I hadn't been on a plane since I flew back from Disney World 25 years ago. I walked through the airport and couldn't believe what I was seeing. TVs and computers were everywhere. Everyone was talking on cell phones and typing on them. I had no idea what was going on.

When I got to the courthouse, I saw my legal team, and they told me what was about to happen. I was going to be set free and declared innocent. I broke down crying for the first time I can remember. I lost control of myself, and all my emotions took over.

Then I saw my mother. She always believed in me because she was in Florida with me. She knew I didn't do it. I hugged her so tight, and I didn't want to let go. I was always scared that she may die before I was released and I would never be able to hug her again.

When the judge said my conviction was vacated and I was released a free man, I couldn't believe it. It was real. I hugged my team and all of my family. My team stood by me and knew that I was innocent. I would be lost without them.

I went out to eat with my family and team, and I had a huge steak. It was amazing, and I remembered what real food tasted like. I went to my lawyer Taylor's house and played video games with his kids. His wife opened the closet and gave me sweaters and shirts because I have no clothing. I spent time with my lawyer Anthony and my investigators Bob and Kim. They have done so much for me. My lawyers put me up in a hotel for a few nights because I have nowhere to live.

All I want is a chance to succeed, a chance to get my life back. I know I lost 25 years for something I didn't do. I just hope I can live my life and be with my family and friends for a long time.

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