Exonerated Man Enjoys First Weekend of Freedom

By Kim Fischer
|  Sunday, Oct 25, 2009  |  Updated 5:49 PM CDT
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Exonerated Man Enjoys First Weekend of Freedom

NBCDFW.com

Claude Simmons Jr. spent his first Sunday of freedom at church, surrounded by friends and family.

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Exonerated Man Enjoys First Weekend of Freedom

Claude Simmons Jr. spent his first Sunday of freedom at church, surrounded by friends and family.
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After being wrongly convicted of murder, a newly exonerated man enjoyed his first weekend of freedom in 12 years.

Family and friends joined Claude Simmons Jr., 54, at St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Dallas.

"This church had my father's funeral while I was in prison," he said.

Simmons and Christopher Scott, 39, had been serving life sentences for a 1997 murder before they were freed Friday.

Simmons said he was adjusting to life outside prison. He said he got to enjoy some Mexican food Saturday.

"It was great," he said. "I loved it -- a lot different than what I’m used to." Simmons said.

Simmons said Natalie Ellis, who sate next to him during the service, was his guardian angel. Ellis, of the University of Texas at Arlington's Innocence Project, did much of the research that led to the release of Simmons and Scott.

"I’m just thankful for her," he said. "Without Natalie, I don't think that I would be out."

Ellis said she doesn't think she deserves the credit.

"I think that it was, it was all God's plan," she  said.

If the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirms Simmons' and Scott’s innocence, both men will be awarded $80,000 for each year they spent in prison.

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