CHICAGO (WLS) -- A man who says a forced confession sent him to prison for 24 years is now walking free. ABC7 was the only local TV station to meet him minutes after he was released.
It has been a long journey to freedom for Shawn Whirl, who spent more than half of his life behind bars. Now, he's with loved ones, embarking on the next chapter of his life.
"It feels surreal. It hasn't quite hit me yet," he said.
On Wednesday, Whirl walked out a prison in Galesburg two months after an Illinois appeals court overturned his conviction.
In 1991, when he was 20 years old, Whirl was found guilty of robbing and murdering a Chicago cab driver. He says he was tortured into a confession by a detective who worked under disgraced Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge. But he's forgiven the person who put him behind bars.
"I don't hold any bitterness or anger or animosity because I don't have room for it. But I do have room for growth," Whirl said.
Whirl says now that he's free, he wants to be role model for other torture victims and people facing injustice.
"Whoever looking or listening to this, if they can just take a bit of what I've been through and what I've said and use it as inspiration, then I've done my job," Whirl said.
Whirl says he would like to help inmates, as he did while he was in prison, with legal work.
He does not know yet if he might file a lawsuit in his case. He said he needed to talk to his attorneys first.