Wrongfully Accused Man Released Seven Years Later

September 16, 2007

Teddy Pierries Thompson is considering employment as a construction worker or perhaps as a plumber or an electrician.

Released from prison Sept. 10 after serving more than six years for a crime he didn't commit, Thompson, now 24, says he doesn't hold a grudge against the man who once said Thompson robbed him.

But Thompson says he no longer trusts the criminal justice system, and his lawyer says the family still hasn't yet decided whether to seek compensation from the state for time lost in prison.

For now, though, Thompson plans to take about a month off and begin to get to know his two 7-year-old daughters, Courtney and Nyasia, who stayed with him at his mother's house his first night as a newly free man.

"I chilled with my daughters," he said of the girls, who were born of two different women only a few months after he was arrested. "I was in jail all their life. I'm just taking my time right now to get to know my kids."

Thompson, who went to prison in 2001 at age 18, was freed two months after Antonio Mitchell recanted and told law enforcement officials he'd identified the wrong person. Thompson had served more than six years in prison, and could have served at least 10 more.

Thompson said he harbors no bitterness toward Mitchell, who once said he was "100 percent sure" Thompson was one of two men who robbed him and a friend at gunpoint on March 26, 2000.

On July 30, Mitchell told investigators that another man has since acknowledged being the robber, and even offered to return the money he took. Investigators who interviewed him believe Mitchell was being truthful in recanting his identification of Thompson. "I know people make mistakes," Thompson said of Mitchell.

He's not as forgiving when it comes to the criminal justice system.

Thompson said Hampton detectives were quick to target him, and that the jury went with the word of one person over strong counter evidence in Thompson's favor.

"I have nothing against the jury, but you're supposed to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

While Thompson gets used to life as a free man, his attorney, Charles Haden, said the family "will be looking at their options" and deciding whether or not to seek compensation from the state for the time he spent locked up.

A state law allows the Virginia General Assembly, at its discretion, to pay someone who's been put wrongfully behind bars up to 90 percent of the Virginia per capita income for each year in prison.

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