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Thursday
Apr042013

Man Tastes Bittersweet Freedom After 40 Years in Arizona Prison

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Louis Taylor went on a hike and enjoyed a hamburger at a fast food joint this week.  That may not sound so unusual until you consider that Taylor, 58, was locked up in prison for more than 40 years for a serious crime he might not have committed.

Taylor was 16 years old in 1970 when he was arrested and found guilty for an act of arson that caused the deaths of 29 people at the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson, Ariz., during the Christmas season.

However, the Arizona Justice Project began raising doubts about the case against Taylor about a decade ago, maintaining that a lack of accelerants found at the hotel suggested the fire wasn't deliberate.

That fact wasn't brought to the attention of the defense during the trial.  Although the wheels of justice turned agonizingly slow for Taylor, the prosecution agreed to free him on Tuesday, provided he pleaded no-contest to 28 of 29 charges related to the deaths.

Taylor maintains his innocence but didn't want to wait for complete exoneration so he took the deal.

At a press conference Wednesday, Taylor got emotional, directly implying that racism led to his conviction because he is African-American and the jury was all white.

He told reporters, "They singled me out, they targeted me, you know.  All they said was the little colored boy, the little Negro boy."

Taylor lashed out at prosecutors as well, saying, "We have the best judicial system in the world, I don't see how I fell in the cracks for 42 years...should have never happened but I’m just fortunate to have the team that I have...miscarriage of justice."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio