Alan Newton served over 21 years in prison for a rape, robbery and assault he didn't commit, before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2006. Yesterday, he was awarded $18.5 million by a jury for his wrongful imprisonment, one of the largest ever amounts awarded for wrongful imprisonment in NYC. “It hasn’t really sunk in. It’s so emotional. It’s something I’ve been fighting for the last four years, since I came home. I’m just glad things worked out at the end of the day,” he told the Times.

Newton's cause had been taken up by The Innocence Project, which works on cases "where postconviction DNA testing of evidence can yield conclusive proof of innocence." The jury ruled that the city had violated Newton's constitutional rights, and found two police officers liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress for failing to produce Mr. Newton’s evidence when requested. Newton had asked for DNA evidence in 1994, 1997 and 1998; the Innocence Project was only able to get it in 2005. The Innocence Project has helped exonerate a number of people in NYC in the last decade, including a former postal worker who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Since being released from prison, Newton, 49, spent two years as a full-time student at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn completing his degree; now he works as a research associate at the Black Male Initiative of the City University of New York, and plans on applying to law school. “I want to work with people that really need that legal assistance that’s just not there for them. There are so many issues where people need competent counsel, and it’s just not out there. I think I’ll jump into it with both arms."