"When they told me I really couldn't believe it and then I believed it. It just seemed like it wasn't real," said Cage.
Cage, who was 28 at the time of the rape, was sentenced for life for the rape he did not commit. On Tuesday, he learned new DNA tests eliminated him as the attacker- and he was free to go. On Wednesday, his family picked him up at the Illinois River Correctional Facility in Canton.
"If you believe in something, fight for it the truth will always come out in the end," said Cage.
And Cage did fight. He enlisted the help of the Innocence Project four years ago. The organization contacted the Cook County State's Attorney's DNA Review Unit, which conducted more sophisticated testing on the evidence than was available in 1994. Also in 1994, Cage was wrongly identified by the 15-year-old victim who said she was raped on the way to school.
"He went to trial and based on the eyewitness identification testimony and voice identification testimony, he was convicted," said Cage.
A description of the suspect led to a sketch, which was released by media. Then, a tip led to Cage, who has maintained his innocence over the years.
His attorneys want the state to compensate him for his time spent in prison with money set aside for people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Cage could get about $150,000.
"Today, we call on Governor Blagojevich to immediately grant Dean Cage a pardon on the basis of innocence and he has the power to do that," said Karen Daniel, Center on Wrongful Convictions.
Eight other people are also waiting for the governor's pardon, which is needed to receive the money.
He is the 29th person in Illinois exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.