A Rockford man serving a life sentence for murder will be released on bond Friday afternoon.
Friday morning, Winnebago County Chief Judge Joseph McGraw agreed to release 40-year-old John Horton on bond. Horton was arrested and convicted for the 1993 robbery and murder of a security guard at an area McDonald's.
Horton has spent the last 23 years in prison. He has maintained that he did not commit the crime.
"This is a case of a murder that happened in 1993 and we know who committed it and it's not the man who's been locked up for almost a quarter of a century," says Exoneration Project attorney Joshua Tepfer.
Horton was released on bond thanks to the work of the Exoneration Project. The group of attorneys and law students investigate and petition courts to reverse what they believe are wrongful convictions.
"They are my angels," says Horton. "They are. They came and listened to me. They pulled me out of a place I didn't realize I was in until they came into my life. I'm grateful for that, I'm so grateful.When they look you in the eye and say we believe you. That's when I learned I was losing hope. I wanted to believe, but I was losing hope. But they gave it back to me."
From here on out, things can go two ways. Either the prosecution decides to not charge Horton, and he's exonerated. There's also the possibility prosecution will press new charges and Horton will head to trial for a second time. For now, he's out on bond presumed innocent.
"God gave me enough people along the way to get me through each chapter in my life," says Horton. "And so it didn't take a bunch of people. He just gave me the right people, and for that, I'm grateful."
Horton was released on a $50,000 bond, 10 percent of which was needed to secure his release.