NEW YORK (WABC) -- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg moved to vacate two unjust homicide convictions for two men who spent nearly three decades in prison.
The Manhattan D.A.'s office vacated the conviction of Wayne Gardine, 49, for a 1996 murder conviction and Jabar Walker, 49, for a 1998 double-murder conviction based on newly discovered evidence.
Cheers of relief hung high over a Lower Manhattan courtroom Monday afternoon as the newly exonerated Walker finally walked free.
"I'm trying to process right now, I feel good to be out," said Walker.
Walker's vacate motion, which came after a joint 11-month investigation with the Innocence Project, included interviews of 30 individuals.
A key non-identifying witness at trial went to Walker's attorney seeking to recant his testimony the day of sentencing and subsequently recanted his testimony under oath in 1999 and 2021, saying he was pressured to implicate Walker.
Another non-identifying witness in case, who testified at trial but did not identify anyone as the perpetrator, provided new evidence stating that he did not see Walker at the scene, leading to Judge Miriam Best to vacate his conviction.
"His mother knew he would be home, but didn't know when," said his mother Patrice Walker.
Meanwhile Wayne Gardine, who was 22 at the time of his conviction, served nearly three decades in prison for an unrelated murder case before he was released on parole in 2022.
The office moved to vacate and dismiss his indictment after a joint investigation between the Office's Post-Conviction Justice Unit and the Legal Aid Society uncovered new evidence from a second witness that undermined the testimony from the sole witness used at trial.
"Wayne Gardine was just 22 years-old when he was sentenced to decades in prison following a trial that we now believe relied on an unreliable witness and testimony - losing years of freedom due to an unjust conviction," said District Attorney Bragg. "Unjust convictions are the height of injustice and while we can never completely undo the pain he has experienced, I hope this is the first step in allowing Mr. Gardine to rebuild his life and reunite with his loved ones. I thank the Legal Aid Society for its outstanding collaboration in this matter."
Though Gardine is out of prison, he remains in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
It's possible that he may be sent back to his native Jamaica, but his mother, Grace Davis, was relieved his conviction was tossed.
"It's a wonderful day for me and my son," said Davis.
Both Gardine and Walker's cases had many holes and issues and the crimes they were convicted of took place within the confines of a corrupt police precinct.
This is just some of the reasons the Manhattan DA's office chose to reinvestigate both cases through its Post-Conviction Justice Unit.
"It was the first time anyone really cared about Mr. Walker's case and cared to interview the witnesses and really see what the truth was," said Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation at the Innocence Project.