NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — A New Orleans man walked free Thursday (Nov. 17) after his prison sentence was overturned, 39 years after a wrongful conviction.

Friends, family, and supporters applauded when Raymond Flanks walked down the steps of Criminal District Court as a free man. He is now one of 43 Louisiana inmates to be exonerated with help from the Innocence Project New Orleans.

Telling WGNO’s LBJ how he kept his faith in prison, Flanks said, “when you are honest with yourself and you know that you are not guilty for a crime you were accused of, it gives you a sense of hope. It’s just a seed in you, every morning you wake up and you know there’s a God.”

Flanks was convicted of the 1983 shooting death of businessman Martin Carnesi. Carnesi’s wife identified Flanks as the gunman, but evidence uncovered by the Innocence Project revealed inconsistencies in the prosecutors’ case against him.

And Richard Davis, with the Project, said those most often victimized by wrongful convictions are poor people of color.

“Of the 43 people we have exonerated, 41 have been black,” said Davis.

Carnesi’s family was also present in court as Flanks won his freedom Thursday. They did not comment on the overturned conviction, instead praising shooting victim Martin Carnesi, whose killing remains unsolved.

“I’m gonna be honest and I don’t have to afraid of anything because I respected that family and even today, when I pray I call out Mr. Carnesi name, I’m not afraid of that name because I know I’m innocent,” said Flanks.

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