A man imprisoned for nearly 25 years for murder has been released from prison after being exonerated by prosecutors and a California law school clinic.
Leon Benson, 47, left the Correctional Industrial Facility in Pendleton a free man Thursday after an investigation revealed police failed to disclose key evidence, including information implicating someone else in the crime, The Indianapolis Star reported.
“It is so surreal. I just walked out of prison, literally, a few hours ago,” Benson said after a champagne toast with his friends and family.
Benson was convicted of the murder of Kasey Schoen, who was shot five times while sitting in his truck near downtown Indianapolis early on Aug. 8, 1998. Benson was convicted in July 1999 and sentenced to 61 years in prison.
Lara Bazelon, an attorney for Benson and director of the Racial Justice Clinic at the University of San Francisco School of Law, said the case against him relied on the questionable identification by a witness.
“There was no forensic or physical evidence,” Bazelon said.
The exoneration was the result of a joint investigation by the Racial Justice Clinic and the Marion County Conviction Integrity Unit, created in 2021 by the prosecutor’s office to correct wrongful convictions.