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After 26 Years in Prison, Alton Logan Starts Over

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for 26 years, for a murder he insisted he did not commit. We’ve been following Logan’s story over the past few months, and you may recall some of the details. In January two public defenders testified that their client told them in 1982 that he'd done the killing that sent Logan to prison. The lawyers kept the secret to protect their client. But after they spoke out, so did others. After he was released, Logan went to live with relatives on the Southeast Side of Chicago. We visited him there, to see how he was adjusting to life on the outside.

At Stateville, Alton Logan worked midnights washing pots and pans. When he was finished at 4:30 in the morning of April 18, he took a shower and boarded a transport for a hearing on his case in a Chicago courtroom.

Late that afternoon, Judge James Schreier decided he'd heard enough. He erased Logan's conviction and allowed him to walk free on a $10,000 bond.

LOGAN: That day in court was one that I'll never forget. I am under the impression that I am not going to get out today. But when the judge announced the bond, I couldn't believe it, then I broke down. Come up out of the county jail was one of the weirdest experiences of my life, because everything I am looking at is new. I'm just looking. I'm trying to see what I can see. Not realizing that I had all the time in the world to see it.

When Logan was arrested in 1982, he was 26, living with his mother, who has since died. So he had no familiar home to return to. He was taken to his aunt's house, where relatives had hastily assembled.

LOGAN: There was a party goin' on. I cried three or four times. I am not ashamed to admit that 'cause I am at home, I'm with family, something I haven't been able to do for 26 years.

That night, having been awake for more than 24 hours, he laid down, not on the steel slab covered by a thin mattress that he'd grown used to in prison, but on a real bed.

LOGAN: The mattress was so soft. What I did finally land at last, I can't get comfortable, but I got comfortable somehow, and it was enjoyable. Next day, got up, ate breakfast, went outside and looked around. Everywhere I looked I couldn't see a fence, or a wall obstructing my view. I saw squirrels, birds, and I could touch a tree. Trees. It was amazing. Last time I saw a tree was about 26 years ago, or one I could touch and feel the grain of the wood upon it.

Logan walked out of jail with nothing. No clothes, no identification, no money.

LOGAN: My brother brought me some clothes down. Had he not, I'd have walked out of that jail naked to get away from it.

Those clothes didn't fit, so Logan needed to do some shopping right away.

LOGAN: It was strange to shop for clothes, but you got to get back into in order to understand the uses of money, the whole thing.

On that first weekend home, Logan also visited his aunt's church and the church he'd attended as a child.

LOGAN: They gave me such an outpouring of love that it hurt. It hurt. I broke down, the feeling was so good it hurt.

There are emotional transitions, and practical ones.

LOGAN: The hardest thing to get used to is the electronic equipment that they use. These cell phones, these computers, and all this, cordless phones. I got to get used to all this. It's a slow process, but I'm gettin' it.

Also slow is the process of building an identity for a man who has no drivers license, credit cards, checking account, or employee ID.

LOGAN: I had no identification at all. I had to go to the Social Security office to get a social security card, which I haven't gotten. And I am unable to get a state ID until I get one.

The neighborhood is unfamiliar, about six miles east of his old haunts, and we walked around the block, something he hadn't done before. I asked if he thought it would be this hard to be out of prison.

LOGAN: No I didn't. But it's hard because of all the changes. And once I get used to it, I think I'll do all right. Mostly that basically all I've been doing, getting back in touch with my family. I got cousins I don't know. I don't know them because at the time they were born I was locked up and away from them. If they were to walk up to me right now I don't recognize them.

CONROY: So here's a police car has pulled up, its flashers going and the siren on. Does that alarm you or provoke any feelings? LOGAN: No, none whatsoever. 'Cause what they do is they business and I don't want to get in their business.

Logan's attorney stood by throughout our interview, making sure his client said nothing that might upset the Attorney General's office, where prosecutors will decide shortly whether to try Logan again or drop the charges against him. Logan expects to hear their decision at his hearing on May 12.

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