Man released from life sentence reflects on new chance at life - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Man released from life sentence reflects on new chance at life

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TUCSON, Ariz. -

Louis Taylor never thought he'd be a free man. At 16 years old, he was sentenced to life in prison, convicted of setting a deadly hotel fire in Tucson.

The Arizona Justice Project took on his case, maintaining that Taylor is an innocent man, wrongfully convicted.

Back in April, Taylor was released from prison after decades behind bars. So what is he doing now?

"It's a tale of two tragedies the pioneer hotel and me getting convicted for it," says Taylor.

Freed from prison after 42-years, the last time Louis Taylor walked down a street he was a 16-year-old boy.

"It feels good to feel mother earth underneath my feet free, mother earth."

"It's just thru the grace of God that I preserved through such adversity and they did a bad thing," he said one day after his release, overcome with emotion.

Where is Louis Taylor now? And how is he adjusting to his freedom, two months later?

"I ended up in Tucson… I don't know if I'll stay but I got a job here. I could have got a job in Phoenix too but its trial and error and see what I want to do eventually."

Taylor works part-time at the Loft Theatre in Tucson. He says he chose the Loft because it's a non-profit. Taylor works outside taking care of the landscaping

He loves the outdoors and doesn't want to work inside just yet.

"I just do one day at a time. I can't get back nothing that I've already lost, so I just try to go forward and enjoy my life the best I can and think positive. Go to work, drink a beer every now and then."

The 59-year-old lives in a two bedroom condo not far from work.

"I think there its real quiet, there's not a lot of drama or violence around there. It's pretty cool. Being in a cell for 41 years, a small cell, you get bewildered in a big ol' place like that. It's a 2 bedroom condo, I got the master up there and another room downstairs, a big living room nice kitchen. It's all right, it takes getting used to."

"Every tiny detail we take for granted in terms of decision making and self-awareness and responsibility is all new for him," says Dr. Erin Nelson, a forensic psychologist who's worked with newly released inmates.

She says integrating into the free world is way more difficult than we think.

"He spent his entire formative life within the confinement of an institution. It's almost impossible for us to wrap our mind around how big and frightening the world can seem," says Dr. Nelson.

"There's nothing really hard. All I can do is go forward, focus on surrounding myself with good people and just live life," says Taylor.

Louis Taylor doesn't have strong family ties so he relies on the attorneys who helped free him for support. Attorneys who work with the Arizona Justice Project. They spent years working to free him from prison.

"I don't miss nothing."

During our interview, Louis hung his head and seemed uncomfortable answering some questions. He wouldn't really talk about any of the daily challenges he's facing or his emotional struggle.

We never got to ask about that night of the deadly hotel fire. Louis ended the interview when we asked him if he's gone back to see the Pioneer Hotel. It's now an office building only two miles from the Loft Theatre.

"I have no reason to go back well… We got to run here. I got to make some important phone calls."

"Watching his demeanor he is clearly emotionally affected and rightfully so," says Dr. Nelson. "His decision to avoid that place makes perfect sense from a psychological standpoint."

Dr. Nelson says Louis is going to need a strong support system to get through this. And in time he may be ready to truly share his story -- what he calls, "a tale of two tragedies."

Taylor says he's received overwhelming support from the community, and he writes thank you notes to each person who helps him.

The Justice Project will hold a fundraiser for Taylor on June 8th in Tucson.

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