Darryl Pinkins, who spent nearly 25 years behind bars, was released from prison Monday just in time for his daughter’s 26th birthday.
“It feels good,” Pinkins said. “It feels real good.”
Pinkins, now 63, was 38 when a jury convicted him in a 1989 gang rape of a woman in Gary, Indiana. He was released from Lake County Jail in Crown Point after new DNA evidence proved he was not involved in the crime.
Pinkins, a father of four and steel mill worker, was leaving a work mill in 1989 to cash checks on pay day with his good friend, Roosevelt Glenn, when they said their car broke down. The two went to get help, but when they returned, they claimed their coveralls were stolen from inside the vehicle.
Around the same time, a woman was gang raped by five men and her attackers left behind coveralls. Police linked Pinkins and Glenn to the crime but despite DNA evidence excluding them at the time, they were convicted and sentenced.
After lost appeals and decades behind bars, his attorney said new analysis conclusively excluded Pinkins’ DNA from the five attackers’ profiles. Lake County, Indiana, prosecutor Bernard Carter said the evidence was irrefutable.
“If we took this to trial, we would lose,” Carter said. “I feel very confident in that and that’s why I dismissed the case after review.”
In 2009, Glenn was paroled, but the rape conviction remains on his record. Pinkins’ attorney, Frances Watson with the Innocence Network, said she is working to get his conviction vacated as well.
Glenn was among those who watched Pinkins walk free from prison Monday.
“I knew there was a justice system higher than this and I hung onto that,” Pinkins said.
His children range in age from 24 (a son born after his arrest) to 42; the family hugged Pinkins and celebrated his release on Monday. Pinkins added that he is not bitter for what happened to him, but he’s looking forward to the life ahead of him.
“Unfortunately [that time] is something we’ll never get back,” he said. “What we have to look forward to is what we do from this point on and how much love we put into each day.”
Carter said the 1989 rape case has been re-opened and investigators have three DNA profiles they are hoping to identify.