Ga. man released after 25 years of wrongful imprisonment

Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 4:26 AM EST
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FLOYD COUNTY, Ga. (WXIA) - After spending more than half his life in prison, a Georgia man was exonerated of all charges and released to spend his first Christmas at home with his family in over two decades.

Darrell Lee Clark, 43, hugged his loved ones for the first time in 25 years Thursday night after he walked out of jail as an innocent man.

“I’m still trying to soak all this in. It’s kind of surreal to me. I’ve been trying to find people to pinch me to wake me up, make sure I’m not sleeping. Walking out of that jail… that’s the greatest day of my life,” he said.

Darrell Lee Clark, 43, (right) hugged his loved ones, including his father Glen Clark, for the...
Darrell Lee Clark, 43, (right) hugged his loved ones, including his father Glen Clark, for the first time in 25 years after he walked out of jail as an innocent man.(Source: WXIA, Georgia Innocence Project via CNN)

When Darrell Clark was 17 years old in 1996, he was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for the shooting death of his friend, 15-year-old Brian Bowling. Twenty-five years later, after new evidence came to light, Darrell Clark was exonerated of all charges.

It’s a day he wasn’t sure would ever come.

“It’s not been easy for me. I really had to dig down deep. There were some times I didn’t think I was gonna make it,” he said.

Darrell Clark credits his release to his family, especially his father Glen Clark, as well as the “Proof Podcast” and the Georgia Innocence Project, who started digging into his case.

“I cannot emphasize enough: this is so unusual. I mean, most of the time, we’re in court for years,” said Senior Attorney Christina Cribbs with the Georgia Innocence Project.

She says Darrell Clark was nowhere near the shooting when it happened. In addition, new evidence in the case revealed police misconduct during the initial investigation, “including threats made to a main witness and other witness manipulation.”

“He was a teenager when he went to prison, and he’s 43 years old now. His whole adult life has been spent in prison. And it’s really kind of overwhelming. It’s happy. It’s bittersweet,” Cribbs said.

Now, Darrell Clark and his family will be spending Christmas together for the first time in over two decades.

“Twenty five years ago, I took him up there, just thinking this was just a big mistake or whatever. That’s the last time I saw my son outside the walls. There’s a part of me was locked up with him,” Glen Clark said.

The battle for freedom was a long one for Darrell Clark, but he wanted to give a message to those still fighting for their innocence behind bars.

“If you keep hope and you keep believing, it’s going to come about one day,” he said.