KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Thursday marks one full year of freedom for a Lenoir County man who spent more than 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Howard Dudley was exonerated one year ago after being sentenced to life in prison on a charge of raping his daughter.
After his daughter took back her statements and the case was heard again, a judge reversed the conviction.
“Ahhh freedom.” That was Dudley’s expression after walking out of prison.
He was yelling freedom when he got out, and he said he still does.
Now 365 days later, Dudley reflects on his newfound freedom, which for him involves “hanging out with family, playing music.”
One song especially, “Goin’ Up Yonder,” reminds Dudley how nice freedom really is.
“I love music,” said Dudley.
Dudley has faced the good and the bad.
“My mom is gone, my wife is gone and my children is grown,” he said.
When he left prison, all he had was a little bit of money.
“$45 that’s what they kick me out with, $45,” said Dudley.
Dudley said the transition hasn’t been easy. He has injuries and limited skills.
“Sometimes I look at my laptop, and some of the things that I can do on it, it blows my mind,” said Dudley. “It blows my mind.”
Dudley has always said he holds no grudges, and he is not angry, but there are some things he wonders.
“I would love for somebody to tell me why,” said Dudley.
Dudley went to prison at 34, and he was released at 59. He said he admits there are some things he misses about his time spent behind bars.
“Some of the things that they show on television are not necessarily true, ” Dudley said. “There’s a lot of good guys back there. I met a lot of good guys.”
For 24 years his fellow inmates were his family, but when asked where he’d rather it was clear.
“This is better,” Dudley said. “This is better — no doubt.”
He enjoys the simple things like fresh air, family and of course music.
Dudley will get compensation from the state.
There is no still word on when that will happen, but it is something his lawyers will be working on.