HARRISBURG, Penn. - A former New York businessman walked out of a Pennsylvania prison Friday as a free man after spending 24 years behind bars. Han Tak Lee was convicted of setting a fire that killed his 20-year-old daughter in 1989, but a judge ruled earlier this month that the case against him was based on outdated arson science and overturned the conviction.
His first steps as a free man, and Lee was greeted by dozens of supporters. He spoke to the media with the help of a translator.
"I don't know how to express my happiness now to finally put this behind me and become a normal US citizen," said Lee.
Lee, 79, spent nearly a third of his life isolated behind bars, sentenced to life without parole for a crime a judge recently ruled he didn't commit. Many of his supporters have been behind him since the beginning.
"Very heavy on my mind because innocent people is suffering. Twenty-five years, almost a quarter century," said his friend, Nicholas Lee.
A judge ruled that the case against lee was based on what is now known as flawed fire science evidence. But Lee's attorney, Peter Goldenberger, says this evidence was introduced by a scientist in the early '90s.
"It's fair to say that not everyone in his field accepted his findings," said Goldenberger.
He says this case sets an example for other similar cases around the country.
"This case is one of a handful so far, and there will be an avalanche soon of cases where the same junk science was used to convict innocent people of arson," said Goldenberger.
The judge gave prosecutors 120 days to decide whether they want to appeal his decision. There's no word yet on whether they will or not.