The courtroom was packed with Terence Garner supporters as his attorneys presented what they call new evidence. His lawyers say Terrance Deloach confessed to the 1997 bank robbery Garner was jailed for not just once, but three times. Deloach later recanted his confession.
With that new evidence, the District Attorney cleared the way for a new trial,and the judge agreed.
The state assigned Superior Court Judge Jerry Cash Martin of Stokes County to the case last week when Judge Knox V. Jenkins Jr., who had presided over the case from the beginning, removed himself. The defense and prosecution had accused Jenkins of appearing biased against Garner.
A secured bond was set at $25,000, and through localand national donations, Garner came up with the $2,500 necessary to walkout of the Johnston County courthouse a free man, at leasttemporarily.
The crowd cheered as Garner was reunited with his mother.
"I feel justice will be served one day," Garner told the crowd."I want to come home to my family. I want to come backand do the things I was supposed to do."
Garner's first stop as a free man was at a church in Smithfield.
First Missionary Baptist Church was home base for the coalition that worked for his release. From the pulpit, Garner thanked his supporters.
Garner was 16 when he was arrested at his mother's Goldsboro apartment and charged with the robbery and the shooting of Alice Wise, an employee of Quality Finance.
Wise, who lost her left eye in the shooting, maintains that she remembers Garner's face, and that he was her assailant.
"Every day of my life, I see Terence Garner's face," she said. "If I had 1 percent doubt, I would state I have 1 percent doubt. No, absolutely none, whatsoever."
Still, Garner and his supporters feel an injustice was done.
"It does bother me to see this young man is in prison when I know in my heart, professionally, that he is an innocent man," said Wayne County Sheriff Capt. Jerry Best.
Garner was originally convicted on the basis of testimony by Wise, her boss and one of the other convicted robbers, Keith Riddick.
Another robber, Kendrick Henderson, told deputies Garner was not involved in the crime and testified in Garner's defense.
Nevertheless, the state appeals court and Supreme Court had upheld Garner's conviction as one of three robbers involved in the incident.
Questions about the case have intensified since PBS aired a "Frontline" documentary on it in January. The airing of the 90-minute program apparently outraged viewers, who sent mail to the judges and lawyers involved.
"Whenever there's an injustice that's brought to the public's attention, it's more likely that that injustice is goingto be corrected," said defense attorney Mark Montgomery.
The defense is preparing for a new trial.
"This is not the end. This is just the beginning," said Rev. James Woodhouse."What I want us to do is to continue to raise funds becauseI want Terence to have the best defense that he can have."
Supporters hope the District Attorney will drop the charges.
An Ordinary Crime: Frontline Profiles The Case