Two Georgia men are speaking out for the first time after walking free after spending 25 years in prison for a murder they did not commit.
Lee Clark and Josh Storey were 17-years-old when their friend, 15-year-old Brian Bowling, accidentally shot and killed himself inside his Rome home while playing Russian roulette in 1996. Storey was said to have brought the gun to Bowling's house.
More than two decades later, the Georgia Innocence Project, which represented Clark, was made aware of new evidence uncovered by a podcast.
Attorneys with the GIP were able to get Clark exonerated on his murder charge and released. GIP spokespeople say they could not also represent Storey because it would have been a conflict of interest, but he was also exonerated on his murder and was released on time served.
A Floyd County Chief Judge ordered both men to be immediately released on Thursday.
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Now back in the real world, Clark and Storey told Channel 2′s Larry Spruill they aren't angry, just excited to get their lives back.
"It's really shock, being behind prison walls for 25 years," Clark said. "I ain't toting no anger behind it because toting anger don't accomplish anything."
Storey says it still feels like a dream, but his new reality is something he spent decades praying for.
"I hugged my mom. I about fell out. I didn't think this day would come," he said. "I'm not angry. I forgave people."
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Police initially ruled Bowling's death an accident, but later charged both Clark and Storey with murder. Both young men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
According to the GIP, a witness said she was hosting a party and heard the teens planning Bowling's murder at a party because he knew about thefts they had committed.
Another witness who was at Bowling's home at the time of the shooting identified Clark in a lineup. Police said the witness told them he saw Clark running through the yard on the night Bowling was killed. The GIP said Clark was charged with murder despite having an alibi.
Susan Simpson and Jacinda Davis, hosts of the Proof podcast, interviewed both witnesses and learned their statements were false. One woman was coerced into making false statement and the other, who was hearing and speech impaired, confused details with another shooting she witnessed.
"It exposed police misconduct in Floyd County. It exposed that individuals were manipulated and threatened into giving false testimony," Christina Cribbs with the Georgia Innocence Project said.
Currently, Georgia is one of 12 states nationwide that does not have a law that compensates the wrongfully convicted after their release, according to the GIP. They say the process to receive compensation from the state is long and requires a lawmaker's assistance.
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For now, Clark and Storey say they are looking forward to getting their lives started again in an overwhelmingly different world than the one they left.
"I'm just glad the truth finally came to light after 25 years," Clark said.
For their first meals after their release, Clark had a chicken salad sandwich and Storey opted for two hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
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