KANKAKEE — A Kankakee man who had served 20 years for a 1999 murder was set free on Monday.
Terrence D. Haynes gained his freedom when Kankakee County State's Attorney Jim Rowe said his office was dismissing the charges.
"It feels great," Haynes said after the hearing.
He said he will be traveling to Florida to a see a relative.
Haynes and his mother, Gail Gray, of Kankakee, walked arm and arm after they left the Kankakee County Courthouse. There were 15 to 20 family and friends in attendance.
"It's exciting and I'm ecstatic right now," Gray said. "I was just praying for things to work out. God is in control."
"I think this is fantastic. Terrence is free after 20 years," said Shawn Barnett, one of Haynes' attorneys from the Chicago firm of Hale and Monico. Also in court from the firm was Celeste Stack.
In May 2018, the Illinois Appellate Court Third District reversed the decision and ordered a new trial before Judge Kathy Bradshaw Elliott.
Haynes was out on bail. The case was set to be retried next Monday (June 10).
"It's a prosecutor's worst nightmare," Rowe said of the case. "This is justice."
"A lot of prosecutors would try and get the conviction," Barnett said. "We are thankful the state's attorney looked into the facts of this case."
In the motion to dismiss, Rowe quotes from the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct: "the duty of a public prosecutor ... is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
Haynes was convicted in August 2000 of shooting and killing Cezaire Murrell on May 27, 1999 in Kankakee. He was sentenced to 45 years by Bradshaw Elliott.
Marcus Hammond, who the state used as its key witness, recanted his testimony that Murrell did not have a gun when Haynes fired two shots hitting Murrell.
Hammond was 10 years old when the shooting occurred on the porch of his brother's (Gary Hammond) house.
According to court documents, Hammond told investigators Murrell was armed and going for his gun. Hammond said prosecutors told him to say he did not see Murrell with a gun.
One of the prosecutors on the case, Michael Jeneary, and Marcus Hammond are cousins. This fact was brought up when Haynes filed a motion in 2008 that his due process rights were violated.
Several witnesses to the shooting did not testify during the 2000 trial.
Other evidence came to light when Debra Williams said Murrell left her apartment before the shooting a few blocks away. Williams said Murrell told her he was going to someone's house to collect some money and showed her he had a gun in his waistband.