innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Friday, August 12, 2005

36 hours later, Kirkwood is released


The Kirkwood family reunites after two years
photograph taken by Cynthia Levy

The Kirkwood family had not seen their son in two years. The family had seen Justin Kirkwood once for an appeals hearing a few months ago because Kirkwood asked his family not to visit him during his two year stay at the State Correctional Institute at Laurel Highlands.

One hour prior to his release, Deborah Kirkwood brought news to veteran Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer, Bill Moushey, that the Lawrence County District Attorney Matthew Mangino hadn't signed a waiver to appeal, further delaying Kirkwood's release.

But, at approximately 12:38 p.m., 36 hours after Motto's order, Kirkwood walked out of the Laurel Highland facility.

Kirkwood, who thought the sheriff would accompany him back to freedom, was elated to be met at the front door of the prison by his father and mother, David and Deborah Kirkwood, as well as his sister and niece, Janiel and Janessa Kirkwood.

Although speechless, the joy of returning to freedom and the ones he loved could be seen in Kirkwood's tear-filled eyes.

Kirkwood's release was heavily based on investigative journalism done by Moushey and the graduate and undergraduate students who participate in the Innocence Institute. Through rigorous investigations students were able to uncover the mistake identification made by an alleged eyewitness, as well as misconduct by Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney, Birgitta Tolvanen.

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