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Calif. man who spent 17 years in jail, released Tuesday after murder conviction overturned

Obie Anthony AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

(CBS/KCBS/AP) LOS ANGELES - Family members screamed and cried Tuesday as Obie Anthony walked out of a California jail, four days after his murder conviction was overturned.

After spending 17 years behind bars, the 37-year-old Anthony left the Los Angeles Twin Towers jail as a free man.

"It's breathtaking ... it's amazing ... it's so, so, so relieving to be free, finally," Anthony said, reports CBS station KCBS. "I don't know, it's hard exactly how to express it."

After his release, Anthony told reporters that he didn't feel any anger at the justice system.

"No, none whatsoever," Anthony said, according to KCBS. "Anger is not a word I would use because I understand the system is designed to do justice. You just have individuals within the system that [are more concerned with] winning first before justice."

Anthony was convicted of fatally shooting a man outside a South Los Angeles brothel in a 1995 trial and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Anthony said he wasn't at the scene and has maintained his innocence.

Last Friday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kelvin D. Filer overturned Anthony's conviction after determining that the prosecution's star witness, a pimp, lied to the jury.

Laurie Levenson, who helped secure Anthony's release, said the witness has since admitted that his previous testimony was wrong and that he never saw the shooter.

"It's good to come to the truth even if it's a bit late," Levenson said.

Anthony's exoneration was partly due to the hard work of members of the "Project for the Innocent" team at Loyola Law School and the "Northern California Innocence Project" at Santa Clara University School of Law. These student volunteers and new attorneys worked on Anthony's case for 3 ½ years and appeared at a September evidentiary hearing.

Anthony thanked his legal team for "coming to my rescue and giving me life again and making it possible for me to be home and away from this place."

Anthony said he longed to attend a Los Angeles Lakers game and eat real food. He also vowed to pay it forward by helping others in similar situations.

"I knew from the very beginning that justice will come," he said. "I never once wavered in my faith."