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Sentenced to life in prison at 15, Joe Ligon regains freedom 68 years later 

NEWSMAN – After spending 68 years in jail, Joe Ligon who was just 15 when given the sentence, walked out of a Pennsylvania prison a free man. 

Ligon who is reportedly America’s oldest and longest-serving juvenile offender had joined a pack of drunk teenagers on a robbery and assault spree that left two people dead and six others stabbed.

Illiterate and poor, Ligon pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, though he long claimed he didn’t take part in the murders. He received a life sentence in 1953.

Last week, after 68 years behind bars, the 83-year-old Ligon walked out of a Pennsylvania prison a free man.

His sentence was reduced to 35 years to life in 2017, after the Supreme Court ruled that automatic life terms for kids are cruel and unusual. But unlike fellow inmates who rushed to seek parole after that ruling, Ligon didn’t want to remain monitored after he got out.

“I like to be free. With parole, you got to see the parole people every so often. You can’t leave the city without permission from parole. That’s part of freedom for me”, Ligon told The Philadephia Inquirer.

Ligon and Bradley Bridge, a lawyer with the Defender Association of Philadelphia who represented Ligon since 2006, fought for his outright release for three more years and won, with a judge ordering his release last November, New York Post reported. 

Ligon in recent years, left. And a booking photo for Joseph (Joe) Ligon, from 1963, right. After leaving the lockup, Ligon saw a Philadelphia transformed while he was behind bars.

“I’m looking at all the tall buildings,” he said. “This is all new to me. This never existed.”

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