Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee have been waiting 24 years for their freedom. In September, a New Jersey Court vacated their convictions for a 1993 felony murder and robbery based on DNA evidence identifying another suspect. After the court set a bail that the two men could make, the prosecution appealed their release and they waited, once again, to walk out of prison. On November 8th, the New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the prosecution’s arguments, allowing the men to post bail. They are now free while the appeal proceeds through the courts. Yesterday they finally celebrated the momentous occasion with friends, family, and their attorneys, Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project and Paul Casteleiro of Centurion.
Related: The Kelley family has set up a fundraising page for Eric
Here are some highlights of their remarkable day:
1) Wearing his prison jumpsuit for the last time, Eric holds his grandson for the first time:
2) Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee breath fresh air for first time in 24 years:
“Breathing that first breath of fresh air was amazing. The trees, the scenery,” Eric Kelley shared moments after he walked free.
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3) Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee reunited for the first time since 1993 trial:
The men were largely separated since their arrest in 1993. They were also kept in separate prisons. This was their first time together out of shackles and out of the courtroom.
4) Eric Kelley and paralegals celebrating moments after his release
5) Four generations of Ralph Lee’s family reunited:
Ralph Lee Jr., Ralph Lee Sr., Lee’s attorney Paul Casteleiro, and Lee’s grandkids Kayson and My’ouri.
Kayson Mccaskill, 9, grandson of Ralph Lee:
“I am happy my grandfather is home because he watches us and takes care of us now. I am excited to go places with him like swimming and shopping.”
My’ouri Thorne, 7, granddaughter of Ralph Lee
“I am happy and excited that my grandfather is home. He watched me while my mom and dad was at work.”
6) Eric embraces his brother Troy and lawyer Vanessa Potkin:
7) Kelley family enjoys first meal together at La Riviera Trattoria:
Eric, who is mostly vegan, chose eggplant parmesan for his first meal.
8) Eric Facetimes with Barry Scheck:
9) Kelley family awaits their first Thanksgiving together: