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'God Is Good': David Sheppard Leaves Prison As Free Man After Governor Wolf Grants Clemency

SKIPPACK, Pa. (CBS) -- A West Philadelphia man is out of prison for the first time in nearly 30 years. David Sheppard was granted clemency for his role in a deadly robbery, but his release was not without controversy.

Sheppard left prison today as a free man. That was supposed to happen last week after Gov. Tom Wolf granted him clemency, but instead, he was held on a 27-year-old shoplifting charge.

For Sheppard, walking outside of prison and hugging his son meant everything.

"God is good," Sheppard said. "God delivers his promises."

"It's unreal," son Dante Sheppard said. "He's here now so we have to suck it all in, enjoy it and move on with life."

David Sheppard
(credit: CBS3)

The 54-year-old West Philadelphia father of five served 27 years for his role in a deadly shooting and robbery of Overbrook pharmacist Thomas Brannan.

Sheppard was not the shooter but was serving life for second-degree felony murder.

Last Wednesday, Pennsylvania's Board of Pardons and the governor approved his release, but it hit a snag. Outgoing Delaware County Republican District Attorney Kat Copeland filed a detainer over his failure to appear at court for a 1992 stolen jeans case.

Sheppard was charged for stealing five pairs of jeans from a now closed clothing store in Springfield.

At Sheppard's bail hearing on Monday, a judge released Sheppard on his own personal recognizance, but he still has to report to a halfway house.

"How do you a hold man in prison as a result of a theft from 30 years ago? She just took advantage of an opportunity," David Sheppard said.

Max Orenstein, Sheppard's public defender, called Copeland's action an abuse of power.

"I still feel it was an abuse of power. I'm glad they saw the light when the rubber met the road and it was time to address the matter in court," he said.

Copeland says her decision was about not notifying Brannan's family before granting clemency.

"The question should be asked, what efforts were made? Because here, there was clearly a breakdown in the system which has yet to be acknowledged," Copeland said.

The shoplifting charge still stands, but incoming Democratic District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer says he plans to drop the charge.

"If the case is mine when I take office on Jan. 6, I'm going to take a hard look at the case and I would tell you, based on the facts I know right now, we would dismiss the prosecution," Stollsteimer said.

Sheppard's family will take him to a halfway house. He's due back in court for the shoplifting charge in January.

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