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Man serving life for Philadelphia murder has original conviction vacated but not enough evidence for exoneration

Judge says Tyree Wallace case lacks evidence for exoneration as lawyers claim his innocence
Judge says Tyree Wallace case lacks evidence for exoneration as lawyers claim his innocence 02:10

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Tyree Wallace, a man serving life without parole after being convicted of a 1997 Philadelphia murder, will remain in prison for now.

"It's the first day that since the 90s, for Tyree since he was a teenager, that he hasn't gone to bed with a life sentence hanging over his head," Wallace's lawyer, David Perry, said.

After serving 26 years in prison, Wallace's original conviction was vacated by a judge on Monday after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit third-degree murder in connection with a Point Breeze murder in the late 90s.

According to the judge, the conviction could lead to a 20 to 40-year sentence.

"I think this was a day where justice was given in doses," Wallace's lawyer, Keir Bradford-Grey, said.

No cameras were allowed inside the Center City courthouse, but it was a packed room filled with friends, family and activists. They waited for Wallace's hearing after his lawyers filed a petition asking for relief from his conviction.

His lawyers argue Wallace is innocent and witnesses who provided testimony against him have recanted.

"I'm optimistic that down the line more things will come out that will help him get the justice that he actually deserves," Bradford-Grey said. "Right now, this is a step towards that."

Many within the community were expecting Wallace to be exonerated and walk out as a free man. Ultimately, the judge felt there was not enough evidence for exoneration.

"We moved him out and a little bit today and we're not finished yet," Perry said.

According to court documents, in October 1997, when Wallace was 19 years old he was convicted of murdering South Philly deli owner, John Su Kang.

Wallace has used his time in prison to create two nonprofits supporting incarcerated and wrongfully accused prisoners.

"He didn't wait to be a free man to service the community," Perry said.

CBS News Philadelphia reached out to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office for more information but has not heard back.

According to the judge, Wallace is due back in court on Sept. 18 and that's when we'll learn more about his sentencing.

"Well, we're really looking to walk him out of this courthouse in September and that's the goal," Bradford-Grey said.

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