Judge says it was an emotional moment to set Adam Braseel free
Circuit Court Judge Justin Angel didn't know what was going to happen when he sat back down on that bench Friday afternoon, he said what happened next was certainly an emotional moment.
"September 1st will be five years that I've been on the bench, and I love my job and it has it's challenges as any job does but this is the first time that I've been able to say that, and that I've been able to exonerate somebody," said Angel.
Friday, Judge Angel set Adam Braseel free after Braseel plead guilty to aggravated assault in his best interest. Braseel had spent 12 years in prison and was sentenced to time served.
"With a crime of this magnitude when somebody has been in prison for 12 years it was huge, I felt the emotion, I felt emotional just getting the words out letting this man know that he was free and that I wanted the shackles to be taken off of him," said Angel.
Judge Angel wasn't apart of those backroom discussions that led to a plea deal between the state and Braseel's team.
"I had heard that I needed to take the bench again, and when I took the bench again I didn't know what was going to be in front of me, I didn't know if the hearing was going to continue, if there was going to be a complete dismissal if there had been some sort of negotiation or settlement, I had no clue," said Angel.
Angel had made the initial ruling four years ago, that let Braseel out of prison for ten months before it was overturned by the Criminal Court of Appeals, sending Braseel back to prison for another three years.
"In essence, they agreed with my findings but disagreed with my conclusion they didn't think it would have made a difference at trial what my findings were at that hearing," said Angel.
He said presiding over a case with this kind of history and steep consequence presents its challenges.
"It is stressful, especially in a case like this where you have somebody who's potentially, at that time we didn't know the full extent of it, serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit," said Angel.
In Braseel's case, he feels like justice has been done, but he knows there's still a family without answers.
"The family of Malcolm Burrows, the man who was brutally murdered, his killer or killers have not been brought to justice so I feel really bad for the family," said Angel.
He said he's unsure whether the outcome of this case will affect other cases.
"I don't know if the outcome of this case will affect previous convictions of previous trials," said Angel.
He said if anything comes out of this he wants people to know more about the process. Angel said Braseel's story is a successful example of the process.
"It's a nightmare to think about an innocent person being in prison for a crime they did not commit especially a life sentence for a murder so if anything I hope this case just draws a little bit more attention of the process is taken care of," said Angel.