CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two men who have spent years in prison have been released from after a judge vacated their life sentences.
At midnight, both John Galvan and Arthur Almendarez walked out of prison as free men.
It was a long battle to get here and was decades in the making.
"Right now, I'm just trying to soak this in," Almendarez said. "It still doesn't feel real."
This moment, as incredible as it may be, is bittersweet. Especially for the people fighting for the two men's freedom.
"There has been 35 years of their lives gone in prison, so it's always amazing to see a client walk out, to see them reunited with their families, but that doesn't take away from the time that's been lost," Tara Thompson, senior staff attorney with the Innocence Project, said.
In September of 1986, a fire in the 2600-block of West 24th Place, killed two young men. Investigators suspected arson.
Galvan and Almendarez were arrested nine months after the fire, and charged with aggravated arson and first degree murder. Both were sentenced to life in prison.
For years, the two men maintained their innocence, arguing that they were coerced and abused by Chicago Police detectives to confess.
Now, over 30 years later, the appellate court found the initial witnesses in the case not credible and vacated their sentences.
An emotional Almendarez spoke when we was released.
"I'm happy to be out but I'm angry that they put me through it," he said.
Almendarez said his mother passed away while he was behind bars and she never got to see him free. He said he never had the chance to really mourn her death.
Galvan, surrounded by his loved ones, also wants his day in court to finally be exonerated. Attorneys hope that day will come soon.
"We believe that ultimately these men are going to be vindicated through the court process, but we've been fighting for years for the right to a new trial and the right to move their cases forward, and that's what we hope to do," Thompson said.
Both men were released from Cook County Jail early Friday morning. They will now get a new trial. They are expected back in court next Thursday.