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After 33 years behind bars for murder he says he didn't commit, Lee Harris walks free

CBS Chicago 3/17/2023 CBS Chicago Team

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A man who spent 33 years behind bars for a murder he says he didn't commit got his first taste of freedom Thursday.

We spotted Lee Harris, 67, enjoying a burger with his family, hours after he walked out of the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.

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Harris was convicted of the 1989 murder of a 24-year-old woman named Dana Feitler in the Gold Coast. He has always maintained his innocence.

On Thursday, a judge vacated Harris' sentence, and prosecutors declined to bring new charges due to a lack of evidence.

Harris had a word of advice for anyone who might be in a similar situation.

"Don't lose hope," he said. "If you believe in what you're saying, don't give up."

Harris said he is looking forward to seeing his first Bulls game at the United Center on Friday – and learning to use a cellphone for the first time.

Dana Feitler CBS 2 © Provided by CBS Chicago Dana Feitler CBS 2

Feitler had been set to start the MBA program at the University of Chicago the day after she was shot. Instead, she spent three weeks in a coma and later died.

On June 18, 1989, Feitler was attacked late at night as she checked her mail in the lobby of her apartment building at 1446 N. Dearborn Pkwy. The killers led her to a cash machine a few blocks away where she withdrew cash and gave it to them – and a witness saw three suspects lead her south to an alley near the Rush Street area – where she was shot once execution-style.

Published reports indicated that Harris had helped police solve numerous other murders, But prosecutors alleged at the time that he implicated himself in Feitler's murder after giving false leads to police, according to a Chicago Tribune report at the time.

Harris was charged in the murder October 1989, and sentenced to 90 years in prison in May 1992.

Feitler's family released a statement late Thursday after Harris' release:

"Thirty-four years ago, our daughter and sister Dana Feitler, a kind, hard-working and talented 24-year-old Chicagoan was randomly abducted from the lobby of her home and murdered.

"A person with a long criminal record was arrested and confessed to the crime. He was convicted and sent to prison by a jury of his peers for what was to be the rest of his life. We have just been made aware two days ago of his release.

"Not a day has gone by where the memory of Dana has not been present in our family's lives. Since Dana's death, more than 25,000 Chicagoans have been murdered, with 695 lives lost last year alone. At moments when the rights of victims are often forgotten, we stand with the tens of thousands of victims who have lost their lives and with the tens and tens of thousands of family members and friends of the victims who bear the sorrow of their deaths.

"We will not forget and will continue to work to make our streets safe for law-abiding citizens. We are heartbroken that this epidemic of gun violence remains a horrific plague 34 years after we lost our beautiful Dana."

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