He spent 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit.
A man from New York State is in Anchorage this week to share his story of injustice and how new technology proved his innocence.
The Alaska Innocence Project said Steve Barnes is not alone when it comes to wrongful convictions. Out of around 5,000 Alaska inmates, the non-profit corporation said it has already received 250 requests asking it to look into their convictions.
45 year-old Steve Barnes spoke at the University of Alaska-Anchorage Wednesday night and shared his story about his life, which was brought to a halt in 1989, when he was wrongfully convicted of the 1985 murder and rape of a New York Teen.
“I’ve been out 3 years,” said Barnes. “It's freedom. I got my freedom back, and my life back and I’ve got a long life to live.”
Barnes was only 19 years-old when he was first interrogated, then put in jail at 23.
“It happened to me, and it happens to a lot of people, and it will continue to happen to people. The system, it's the way the system is,” said Barnes.
Barnes said he was convicted on invalidated forensic evidence. He said the jury heard testimony from a jailhouse informant, who was in custody on forgery and larceny charges, who claimed Barnes confessed to him about the murder. Barnes said he had never talked to him.
Years later, the innocence project looked into his case and helped prove his innocence. They tested his DNA and proved Barnes was not the perpetrator.
The Alaska Innocence Project said there are others here in Alaska who may have been wrongfully convicted too.Bill Oberly, with the Alaska Innocence Project, said he's working on his first case, which involves Gregory Marino, who was convicted of the 1993 murder in Anchorage of a teen who was stabbed more than 60 times.
“It's been a case that has been questioned for a long time, and we're trying to see if we can get DNA evidence to establish that case,” said Oberly.
Oberly said the conviction was based mostly on the eye witness testimony of a little girl.
“Eyewitness misidentifications are involved in 75% of the cases where there have been exonerations. We are trying working with law enforcement in Alaska to improve our eye witness identification procedures here in Alaska,” said Oberly.
Technology has advanced the DNA testing procedures. Oberly said there are less likely to be cases leading to DNA with wrongful convictions now, but there are still a host of causes for wrongful convictions that don’t involve DNA.
Barnes said although he lost 20 years of his life, he has the rest of his years ahead of him.
“Every day is like a holiday. I tell everyone I wake up every morning and it's like Christmas morning to m,” said Barnes. “I got my freedom back and my life and I’m back with my family and friends, and I’m living each day to the fullest.”
Meanwhile, Barnes said the investigation for the real person behind the crime that he was wrongfully convicted of, continues.
“It's an old case but I’m hoping that somebody, they'll find the person responsible for this,” said Barnes. “For me, the District Attorney's office, and for this girl's family.”
Barnes will be at another event on Thursday. It is a Fundraiser for the Alaska Innocence Project. It will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Bernie's Bungalow Lounge.