Alprentiss Nash, Chicago man cleared of murder charges, says he's not bitter after spending 17 years in prison

September 5, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"Now that I am free, why be bitter when life is so wonderful now?" Nash said.

Nash became a free man last Friday after spending 17 years in prison. He was released after DNA evidence pointed to another suspect.

Wednesday, Nash spoke with reporters for the first time since his release.

Nash was a 20-year-old gangbanger and drug dealer from the South Side when he was sent to prison for 80 years for murder. But, now, Alprentiss Nash is a thoughtful, well-spoken 37-year-old man who is hoping to salvage what is left of his life after spending nearly two decades locked up.

"I always said I was innocent from Day One," said Nash.

It was a claim that hardly put Alprentiss Nash in select company. The prisons are filled with convicts like Nash proclaiming their innocence.

But, in this case, Nash was not the one who entered a South Side home back in 1995. He was not the one who then shot and killed Leon Stroud. And, if he could just convince a someone to look at the evidence, he could prove it.

"I just couldn't see myself spending the rest of my life in prison," Nash said.

He started by writing his own legal briefs in prison but eventually wrote a letter to attorney Kathleen Zellner, convincing her to take the case based on a mask police recovered at the scene. The killer wore it and it had never been tested for DNA -- until Zellner got involved.

DNA tests excluded Nash.

And last week, state's attorney Anita Alvarez dropped the case against Nash, paving the way for him to walk out of the prison at downstate Menard, a free man after 17 years behind bars.

Nash spent the weekend with his family. He has been focused on gaining his freedom for so long, now he is trying to plan the rest of his life.

"It's just never ending," Nash said. "The hardship is never ending. And you have to be strong. You have to be strong."

Nash says he is planning on going to culinary arts school to become a chef. He is also interested in cars and might try to work as an auto mechanic.

Nash's attorney is considering a civil rights lawsuit which could compensate him for his time and suffering while in prison.

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