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Detroit man released from prison after spending 32 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit

Posted: 8:20 PM, Dec 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-12-06 22:20:23-05

"By the grace of God, He kept me from losing my mind," said Viola Burton as she sat in the lobby of the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson Monday waiting for her son.

After 32 agonizing years, Viola's son, Danny, was being released from prison.

"I knew in my heart that he couldn't kill nobody," she said.

Anxiously waiting with Viola were attorneys Solomon Radner and Madeline Sinkovich from Excolo Law and Claudia Whitman of the National Capital Crime Assistance Network.

Fifteen years ago, Danny Burton wrote a letter to Claudia, telling her about his case and that he was innocent.

Claudia, who volunteers all of her time to investigate wrongful conviction cases, asked the attorneys to take a look at the case.

The law team also investigated, talked to witnesses, and found a prisoner who would eventually sign an affidavit that named the real killers of the 1987 murder of Leonard Ruffin in Detroit.

"There was a lot of witness intimidation," said attorney Madeline Sinkovich, who added that young witnesses were mistreated by police to get statements.

When a tearful Danny Burton walked out of prison, he gave his mother a long embrace.

"I'm really shocked," Danny said while appearing to be in a state of disbelief.

He wanted to see the rest of his family, but not everyone is still around.

Danny's father died years ago from a heart attack. Viola said he just couldn't take the fact that his son was innocent but locked away. Danny's sister passed away last year.

Before taking Danny to get some food - he requested McDonald's - his attorney took him to The Suit Depot in Oak Park where owner Marty Babayov, who heard about Danny's case, wanted to give him some new clothes, including suits for court.

Danny now wants to help free other men he says are in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

"A lot of them can't read or write to seek assistance," Danny said.

Friday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office released the following statement:

Today Prosecutor Worthy granted relief to Mr. Danny Burton based on the work of the WC Conviction Integrity Unit. This is based upon a finding of new evidence that undermines the reliability of Mr. Burton’s conviction. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office will not be re-trying the case, and as a result Mr. Burton has been released from MDOC today.

This article was written by Kimberly Craig for WXYZ .