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Free at Last: Darryl Burton's thoughts after 24 years behind bars



Darryl Burton is not on parole and he's not heading off to a halfway house. For the St. Louis native, who was released from prison last week after a judge overturned Burton's murder conviction, freedom means he now reports only to himself.

"He hasn't existed on the public grid for years. He is truly like a newborn," says Cheryl Pilate, a Kansas lawyer who represents Burton.

After 24 years behind bars, Burton was let out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center on August 29. Cole County Judge Richard Callahan overturned Burton's first-degree murder conviction, sparing him at least 26 more years in prison on a 50-year sentence.

Since his release, Burton, now 46, has been living with various family and friends in Kansas City, Missouri. His first meal ("something vegetarian") came at a T.G.I. Friday's with his lawyers — "my angels," as he calls them — along with friends and his pastor.

"Everything was so new to me," he says during a recent telephone interview. "The [mobile] telephone, this technology, I've been hanging up on people left and right. You have to have a degree just to work them!"

He's found that this fast-paced life can be overwhelming and that it takes time for feelings to catch up to him. Emotions continue to boomerang. "It's a wonderful feeling," he says. "I gave my life to the Lord. I've learned to forgive. I'm glad to be out here because of Barack Obama. This is a historical moment."

At the same time, he seethes about the number of innocent people he maintains are behind bars. "I just want the media to start investigating the cases. I know it's more than just me."

As far as future employment goes, Burton says he'd like to work with youth groups, though he's not yet sure in what capacity.

He plans to visit with people in prisons throughout the state, including a brother and cousins who are serving time. He adds that he'll probably miss the "fellowship with some of the Christian brothers."

Burton vows he'll never see the inside of a prison cell again. "I don't want to miss anything about that place. I'm not longing to go back." 

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