After 27 Years in Prison, Shabaka Shakur Begins A New Life Passionately Determined to Inspire and Help Others Who Have Been Wrongfully Accused of Crimes
The story is mindboggling, and yet, it’s true. Like some made for TV crime movie, a 23-year-old man is arrested at the height of New York’s crack epidemic in 1988 in connection with the shooting deaths of two known drug dealers – and later sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. His story takes an extraordinary turn in 2013, however, when the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office begins investigating about 70 murder cases connected to the detective on this particular case. On June 4, 2015, the charges against the man were dismissed – and he is today a free man.
This man’s story is especially vivid to us here on the Lamber Goodnow team because the newly freed advocate for justice, Shabaka Shakur (formerly known as Louis Holmes), is also the brother of Michelle Lorenti, an intake specialist here on our team at Fennemore Craig.
“My brother’s plight really shows that anything is possible,” rejoices Lorenti as she recently hosted Shakur here at our offices.
While Shakur’s incredible story will undoubtedly one day be made into a remarkable book and/or movie (he’s already been the subject of a German documentary), for now, he seems remarkably at peace with his experience being unjustly incarcerated, and at 51, he’s found a new purpose for his life.
“While other inmates were playing basketball, I was in the law library studying,” notes a proud, but humble Shakur. He eventually worked in the prison law library as a law clerk, and after many years of litigating on his own behalf, his case was reopened for review.
Shakur earned his college degree in prison, took legal classes to better understand the law, and now hopes to inspire others, offering his services as a paralegal to individuals facing wrongful convictions. To this end, he’s founded a support group called Absolutely Innocent, Inc. for families facing similar crises to what he so valiantly endured.
As the Wrongful Conviction Activist, Treasurer and Cofounder of Absolutely Innocent, Inc., Shakur has truly realized his dream of fighting against the injustices of wrongful convictions.
“You can be a vital asset for change, no matter what your circumstances,” remarks a passionate Shakur.
According to The National Registry of Exoneration, a project of the University of Michigan Law School that currently has 1,707 exonerations, Shakur was the ninth defendant to be cleared of a murder by the same detective that played a role in the investigation of his case.
“My conviction came at a time when they were incarcerating as many people as possible,” reflects Shakur. “There was a war on drugs going on, and it wasn’t so much a bad system, but really a bad detective – and a bad attorney who were ultimately responsible for my conviction.”
A new path now awaits Shakur, one he accepts with incredible dignity and purpose – a chance to make a difference in the lives of others ….