Toledo men convicted in decades-old murder to be freed ‘in the interest of justice’
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Two men previously convicted of aggravated murder in a years-old case are set to be released from prison Tuesday night after taking a plea deal in what their legal counsel and prosecutors call an agreement “in the interest of justice.”
Wayne Braddy Junior and Karl Willis were convicted in the 1998 murder of 13-year-old Maurice Purifie. They have maintained their innocence since.
Prosecutors and the Ohio Innocence Project took the case to a federal appeals court last year, saying that they were convicted solely on the testimony of another suspect in the case. Travis Slaughter testified that he, Braddy and Willis all took turns shooting the teenager. Slaughter changed his story years later. The appeals court sent the case back to Lucas County.
“For their part, Braddy and Willis maintain their innocence,” a joint filing from prosecutors and the Ohio Innocence Project read. “Absent this agreement, they would continue to fight to prove their innocence and gain their freedom. However, after over 23 years of incarceration and litigation, they are also ready for a resolution in this case.”
Last year, the court determined there would not be a strong probability of a different result in a retrial even as Slaughter’s testimony was not credible by his 2019 affidavit where he swore Braddy and Willis were not involved in the murder.
The men entered Alford pleas Tuesday to give them what court filings called certainty about their sentences, allowing them to return home while maintaining their innocence. The judge ordered them to serve two years of community control. They’ll also have to seek employment, mental health services and participate in a re-entry support program.
“I’m an innocent man, but I do want to go home,” said Willis in court Tuesday. “I understand it took an appeal procedure, but I’ve served 23 years. I’ve lost a lot and I just pray everyone can understand me, that I’m an innocent man, but I’ve been put in a tough situation and I accept it.”
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