Wrongfully-convicted man imprisoned for 29 years released Tuesday

CHICAGO -- A man who spent nearly 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit became a free man Tuesday night.

A Cook County judge threw out Arthur Brown's 1988 double murder and arson conviction Tuesday morning.

From day one, Brown, 66, and his family said he had nothing to do with the crime that put him in prison. When he was arrested, he was 37 and had no criminal record.

It took 29 years but today their calls for justice were finally answered.

In 1990, Brown was convicted with two others of helping set fire to a South Side video store two years earlier to collect insurance money. The fire, fueled by gasoline, spread to six other store fronts and killed two people inside a carry-out restaurant.

“There was no physical evidence, no forensic evidence, no eyewitness, there was nothing against Arthur,” Ron Safer, Brown’s attorney, said.

The one thing prosecutors did have was a confession.

“He was a victim of police brutality. He had a confession beat out of him. Prosecutors knew it was fraudulent,” Safer said.

But Safer said prosecutors went with it anyway.

“They lied to the jury that’s how he was convicted that’s how wrongful convictions happen,” he said.

And it seems to happen a lot in Illinois. The National Registry of Exoneration tracks overturned convictions nationwide. Since it began in 1989, more than 200 people in Illinois have been wrongfully convicted and set free. Just in the past five years, 77 people have been freed.

However, for Brown and his family, it’s not so much about the past as it is about the future.

Brown’s attorney said they will go for a certificate of innocence which could mean Brown would be compensated for the time he spent in prison.

Brown's family is planning a very large Thanksgiving celebration next week.

He says despite all his time in jail, he is not bitter. He said that's because he didn't have time for that.

The 66-year-old used a cellphone for the very first time Tuesday night to share the good news.

“I missed out on a lot,” he said. “It would be impossible to explain right now but I missed my family most of all."