SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WRSP) — A Champaign man is free and telling his story after spending nearly two decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
Teshome Campbell was 22 years old when he was convicted of murder, after a man was beaten to death in Champaign on Christmas morning in 1997. He spent 18 years in prison, but this January, the 40 year old walked away from the Danville Correctional Facility as a free man. "In time, all truth is revealed," said Campbell. "That's why I'm home, as a result of that."
Truth that took 18 long years to reveal, 18 years of Teshome Campbell's stolen life.
"This smile is not without scars, I mean, I went through it," said Campbell. "I mean, you gotta go through the storm to get to the rainbow. I went through the storm to get to the rainbow."
Campbell says incorrect eyewitness identification and ineffective counsel led to his wrongful conviction. "Not a public defender, but a public pretender," Campbell commented. "He's a good man, but he's horrible in law. Had I had the right representation, I would have never been here doing this right now."
Campbell's hope is to help others who, like him, were convicted of crimes they didn't commit. "There are a lot of guys and women that are locked up for cases that they didn't commit and crimes that they didn't commit, and I'm here to do my part to let them know there is hope, and there is help," explained Campbell.
He's doing that with the help of the Illinois Innocence Project based at the University of Illinois Springfield, which helped with his exoneration.
Larry Golden, the Founding Director of the Illinois Innocence Project, said, "There's nothing that I've done in my life that exceeds the reward of walking somebody out of prison who's actually innocent. It's so rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time, that this individual lost the core years of his life." Years of his life that Campbell's brother says their family is moving on from.
"We gotta go forward now, you know?" said Teshome's younger brother Japhon Myles. "The time that he spent there is gone, but we're going to move forward and we're going to celebrate his life that he [has] now."
Campbell will receive compensation from the state for the wrongful conviction, but details on how much or when have not been released.