NEW ORLEANS — After thirteen and a half years in Angola State Prison, Kaliegh Smith is a free man.
“Oh, it feels good. It feels lovely. The truth has prevailed,” said Smith in his first interview since his exoneration.
In 2010, Smith was convicted of the 2007 murder of 27-year-old Jason Anderson on Gervais Street.
Last fall, Smith’s attorneys, with Innocence Project New Orleans, presented DNA evidence that proved he wasn’t the killer, as well as evidence of misconduct from prosecutors.
“The District Attorney’s office was secretly paying the rent of the most important witness, and she would only testify against Kaliegh when her rent was being paid,” said Richard Davis, one of Smith’s attorneys.
Monday, the current District Attorney’s office agreed that Smith was wrongfully convicted.
Hours later, Smith was a free man, reunited with his family.
“Awe man, tears of joy. Words can’t explain,” said Smith of his release.
Smith says his experience in Angola was horrific and unimaginable, especially knowing in his heart he was innocent.
“It was a hell hole. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. It’s no place to be, where you have no say-so, no nothing. Everything is stripped from you,” said Smith.
Regardless of his circumstances, Smith says he never lost hope that one day he would be free,
even after his mother — his greatest supporter — passed away while he was in prison.
“She’s smiling down on me, and I miss her very dearly,” said Smith.
Smith says he’s forever indebted to his attorneys who fought for him, and his family who stuck by his side. Now, Kaliegh Smith is looking forward to living the life he always wanted.
“I’m just grateful to be free,” said Smith.
Right now, Smith is staying with his brother in Baton Rouge and he says he has no plans of returning to New Orleans. Smith’s lawyers are seeking compensation from the state for the years he spent incarcerated.
Innocence Project New Orleans has helped to free 37 people.