JUPITER, FL (WFLX) - A jury on Wednesday afternoon found Patrick Melehan not guilty of manslaughter and burglary in the 2007 impaling death of 18-year-old Carlos Lopez, after Melehan spent six years in prison.
"It took a minute to register. My brain couldn't comprehend what they were saying. My mind just started doing back flips, and it hit me that I am going home today," said Melehan.
In 2009, Melehan was convicted in Lopez's death and sentenced to 25 years in state prison. But an appeals court later overturned the conviction. Melehan had already served six years by the time his second trial began two weeks ago.
The 25-year-old said he has missed a lot. "Just being [able] to walk outside. Just even walking through a door. You know just a lot of small things. You take a lot of things for granted," said Melehan
His home for the last six years was full of concrete walls and other inmates. "I've seen things that no 19-year-old kid, any young person, should see," said Melehan.
At times, as he reclined in his cell, Melehan said he gave up. "That was one of the only ways to cope with it, is to accept it. As sad as it seems. That's the only thing you can do," said Melehan.
He, along with his family, fought the conviction when Melehan said prosecutors would not listen. "Nobody else could hear you, nobody else could understand your side of the story. Nobody else was there," said Melehan. "I understand you got a job to do. But you're ruining someone's life."
In his new trial, Melehan credits his lawyer for focusing on what he referred to as a "lack of DNA evidence" and "witness testimony". "I got to start on over with my life and reset it. I got to start my life all over again from day one," said Melehan.
Melehan now plans to get a job and move far from Florida.
As for the people he claims wrongfully convicted him. "It's hard to forgive them, but I do. But I will never forget," said Melehan.
Melehan said now that he is free, it is hard not to think about the others in prison who also might not belong there. "You know everybody that's still in there, don't give up. Don't go to prison and lay down. It's not impossible," said Melehan.
The Lopez family did not want to comment.