A Miami-based lawyer changed the life of a man who spent over 32 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Thomas Raynard James had been incarcerated for 30 years by the time attorney Natlie Figgers, an attorney two years out of law school when friends of James reached out to her in an attempt to raise money for his defense in 2020.
Figgers, though only a business and personal injury, decided to take on the case regardless of the case requiring a criminal lawyer after learning that no other lawyer would take his case. A few attorneys were interested in taking his case. However, they required fees that ultimately made them inaccessible to James. After finding that out, Figgers began an 18-month investigation that would consume her life just six weeks after her son was born.
Figgers put in a lot of effort to help James’s case. She rang doorbells and banged on doors. She made cold calls and pored over heaps of paperwork. She said she logged over 2,000 hours interviewing and researching to build up James’ case. Despite all of the other cases that she was getting, she continued pouring all her work into James’ case, stating, “ I couldn’t stop until he was out,” she said. “So I kept giving them more. It became overwhelming evidence of his innocence.”
When it comes to the actual case, nine sets of fingerprints were found at the crime scene, with none of them belonging to James. Police and prosecutors solely only relied on the testament of Dorothy Wilson, the victim’s stepdaughter, who was at the crime scene at the time of the crime and identified James as the shooter. Another man, Thomas James, lived nearby and had a violent criminal past. When police searched “Thomas James” in the database, they instead found Thomas Raynard James, and without any incriminated or physical evidence, they arrested him.
After Wilson eventually gave a statement stating that James was not the man at the crime scene, after 32 years, a judge ruled that James had been wrongfully incarcerated. He was sent home.
When thinking about everything he has been through, James says, “I’m not a better person because of what I went through. I’m a different person. I get emotional talking about it; it’s overwhelming. I have emotions running wild, and I think it will probably be that way the rest of my life.”
Figgers also made a statement stating, “This case really shaped me in a different way on how I take on cases, and I feel like the fact that I’m going to treat every case differently moving forward, making sure that I listen closely to my client, more than ever before.”