9 Moving Moments from Double Freedom Day of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee in New Jersey

By Alicia Maule

Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee moments after their release on Nov. 8, 2017.

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.

Watch in full on Facebook Live.

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:


  1. Jordan Kostelyk

    This is so beautiful!

  2. Scott Smith

    So so very happy for you both. The prosecutor asking for bail shows that evil never stops

  3. Demetrice McClinton

    Thank you Jesus for deliverance!

  4. chris schmidt

    happy thanksgiving to your families. god bless.

  5. Carole Filipak


  6. Tyreia Grimes

    That is glorious

  7. Beverly Keys

    Double tears of joy for these men and their families! Best wishes for their future as free men.

    What Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld have done with the Innocence Project constantly renews my faith in humanity.

  8. Rosemary Trochez

    What a beautiful day!!! I have such admiration for the attorney’s who dedicate themselves to this cause, what passion for justice! Good luck to these men!


    Very moving. Thanks so much for sharing this celebration!

  10. Cassandra Taylor

    I am truly grateful for the innocent project. Im waiting for them to get my husband release. I have trust that they will and faith that God will assist them in doing so.

  11. Stephanie Allen

    Yes thank you Jesus another superstar released WANT HE DO IT!

  12. Stephanie Bailey

    Amazing!!! I am so happy for them and their families!!! Enjoy!!!

  13. Lisa Greenberg

    Wow. I have been going about my life for the past 24 years while these 2 innocent men were behind bars. Feeling humbled. I wish you so much joy and health for the next 24 and beyond!

  14. Pamela Denchfield

    Wonderful news about both Eric and Ralph! Eric must be a very compassionate person sticking to an almost vegan diet in prison. It’s hard enough to follow this diet when you’re out in the world! Bravo, Eric!

  15. Diana Jones

    AWESOME!!!!!! God Bless them and their families!!!!! Innocence Project needs to come to Freestone County Texas!!!!!!

  16. Rolf Schoeneborn

    Greetings from Germany,
    I am so very happy that the American Innocence Project is so tenacious and so successful!
    I spent two weekends in jail in Oakland/Ca. rather than pay a fine (for being two minutes late in court).
    It was an experience I will never forget until my dying day!

    I often think of Chester Himes’ prison novel ‘Yesterdaywill make you cry.’
    He, like so many other black American artists, (e.g. Sidney Bechet, Albert Nicolas) lived and died in France.
    We cherish and honor them here,

    Running regards,
    Rolf Schoeneborn

  17. Evette Williams

    I too was charged with a crime i didn’t commit. It took so much out of my life. Paying for classes, attorney fees…The system is really screwed up for innocent people. Womem and Men of all races!!! I’m still hurt but happy for my freedom! When you start losing your jobs you have been working for so many years, because of the back ground checks, one came upon me, it stated assault charge! I didn’t assault anyone. I was accused of that by a white cop! Wow…Because he noticed some dots on my ex-husband arm, he assumed they came from me. That day changed my way of believing in cops. I will never trust them again…I had high respect for them, never again. Family violence is on my record. Jesus!!!! Even tho the case has neen dismissed, it still show!!! I was the one assaulted, I was the one who called for help, but i goes to jail. Wow…Welcome home

  18. Aimee McGaffey

    Welcome home! I’m so happy to see that this injustice is being corrected for you!

  19. Terri M

    So happy to read your story tonight! I pray that the days ahead a bright and that somehow you can move past this and live full happy lives with your beautiful families. It is not fair what happened to you, but thank God the truth came out, unfortunately it had to take this long. I pray that you gentleman can find forgiveness in your hearts of those who wrongly convicted you, and that you are blessed with people opening their hearts to you in terms of doing anything and everything for helping you assimilate back to normal lives with your families.

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