James Dennis' Long Road From Death Row to Freedom - NBC4 Washington
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James Dennis' Long Road From Death Row to Freedom

"I just want the nightmare to end," he said as he pleaded "no contest" to a 1991 killing he says he didn't commit

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    Courtesy Rebecca Gordon
    Jimmy Dennis and his core legal team right after he was released from prison in western on Saturday, May 13, 2017. From left to right, Rebecca Gordon, Meghan Martin, James Dennis, Ryan Guilds and Amy Rohe.

    A judge has said James Dennis is "in all probability" innocent of the 1991 killing of a 17-year-old school girl, but it took a "no contest" plea to get him out of prison after a quarter century on death row.

    The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office fought U.S. District Judge Anita Brody's order to retry Dennis or drop the charges, and ultimately negotiated the unusual plea agreement that let's Dennis maintain his innocence but prosecutors keep his conviction on the books.

    "I just want the nightmare to end," Dennis told a judge as he made the plea in late December.

    Finally, on Saturday, Dennis slipped out of his prison uniform and into a dark suit, walking out of prison where his fiancee and legal team were waiting for him. Smiling and laughing, they began the long drive to Philadelphia.