For countless hours over 16 years, James Tillman left his prison cell to study law at the Cheshire Correctional Institution library. His efforts paid off in 2006, when he was exonerated after DNA testing proved that he did not commit the rape for which he had been convicted in 1989.
Yesterday, he returned to the prison library to join a discussion with inmates of Harper Lee’s book "To Kill A Mockingbird."
After the group broke up, Tillman approached the prison librarian, Mark Sosnowski, and they hugged across the librarian's desk.
"Thank you for all of my copies and getting me to the Innocence Project," Tillman said.
The project, chaired in Connecticut by two of the state's public defenders, works toward the exoneration of wrongly convicted inmates through DNA testing and advocacy.
Tillman was the first inmate at Cheshire to work with the Innocence Project. "It was like `Oh my God it works,'" Sosnowski said.
Minutes later, Tillman exited the prison and drove away.