That’s how long Jack Sagin spent behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
“I mean, put yourself in my shoes: You wake up in the morning and you go, ‘What the hell am I doing here, man?’” Sagin, 73, said just minutes after walking out of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility just south of San Diego.
Sagin was convicted in 1986 and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of a woman in her Monterey apartment. Sagin maintained his innocence while incarcerated.
“Our system is full of humans and humans have errors and humans make mistakes,” said Missy O’Connell, an attorney with the Northern California Innocence Project. She said she worked to get Sagin out of prison for more than six years. It was not easy, especially since Sagin admitted to burglarizing several Monterey homes around the same time as the murder.
“That was his past life,” said O’Connell. “He was a burglar. That’s what made it an easy target to put this homicide on him.”
O’Connell argued Sagin was wrongfully convicted in a separate trial for the murder.
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“When Jack was convicted, DNA didn’t even exist in our courtrooms,” she said.
The Innocence Project successfully fought to get DNA evidence from the original crime scene retested. DNA from five different men was found inside the woman’s apartment, including under her fingernails and on a blood-stained towel. None of the DNA samples matched Sagin's.
“They never gave up on me. They believed in me,” he said of the Innocence Project.
Sagin and roughly 20 people from the Innocence Project immediately headed to the Big Kitchen Café in South Park for the soon-to-be 74-year-old’s first meal as a free man.
He said he is moving to Arizona to stay with his sister where he intends to exercise, sit by the pool, and play his guitar.