Special Report: GA man seeks redemption, accused twice of same murder

WTVM Special Report: Twice Accused, Twice Acquitted

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Imagine being accused of murder not once, but twice.

To be on trial for the same murder twice is a nightmare that became a reality for one Georgia man, Kareem Lane, in 2008. Columbus police said they had new evidence to link him to a high-profile 1992 murder case.

For 20 years the murder of former Muscogee County School Superintendent Jim Burns went unsolved.

On May 3, 2010, Lane was arrested at his home in Alabama on murder charges and extradited to the Muscogee County Jail on charges for the superintendent's death, not knowing he would spend close to $100,000 and almost four years of his life fighting for his freedom.

"There is so much at stake because for the first few days I thought that I was facing the death penalty," Lane said.

So how did Lane - a husband, a high school referee, and a veteran of the Marines - become a murder suspect?

Police say Lane was spotted driving near Burns' house around the time someone broke into his home and brutally stabbed him in the back, killing him right in front of his wife.

In 1992, at the time of the murder, Lane was a 17-year-old student at one of the schools that Burns oversaw.

Lane was brought in for questioning the night of the murder but was let go, not knowing 18 years later he would be arrested because of new DNA evidence.

"I've been scarred emotionally by the situation, but I've never been the one to let something to keep me down so I learned from it," says Lane.

Lane says being on trial for murder twice taught him how to persevere, to be resilient.

He hired defense attorney Stacey Jackson to help him get out of prison and reunite with his wife.

"My only involvement with police has been this unfortunate case. So there was many nerve wrecking moments, hours, days contemplating the possibilities. Acquittal, hung jury, conviction but I can't change anything sitting in a cell," says Lane.

Jackson's defense rested in the very evidence police used to arrest his client.

"There's not one piece of evidence that forensically links Kareem to that scene," said Jackson during the 2012 trial.

"Every day we went to trial Stacey was dismantling their case," said Lane.

Originally, police reported the DNA comparison from the murder weapon matched Lane's. During the first trial DNA experts testified that the tests were not a match; however, Lane could not be ruled out.

Experts even testified that they also found a DNA sample of a third individual, other than Burns or Lane, on the knife.

"Seeing him in jail for that year plus period it drains on a person, it drains on their spirit. It drains on their confidence and their soul," said Jackson.

Most people would think Lane's journey would be draining on his marriage but Lane says it only made his bond with his wife stronger.

"I only get glimpses of the world, you know when she sends me photos, when I get the visits. I just get glimpses of this whole bright world that I am missing that I should be sharing with her," says Lane.

Carol Lane never wavered in her belief of her husband's innocence encouraging him through letters and cards.

One card she sent for Father's Day reads, "Happy Father's Day to a wonderful father and a very special man… love Carol and the future baby Lane, too." Carol wasn't even pregnant yet, but she used it as a way to give her husband hope, something to look forward to.

After two years in prison, thousands of dollars in attorney fees and months on trial, Lane was released from prison after a 10-2 jury vote found him not guilty.

"When I heard the words not guilty it just affirmed what I believed the whole time that my husband is not guilty of this," said Carol the day Lane was acquitted.

"I love my wife so much… even when she wrote letters in jail she never wavered, she had strength," said Lane.

Lane began to enjoy life – he got a new job, and his wife's wish came true.

"After the first trial in between the first and the second trial he has a son," said Jackson.

However, just one week after baby Lane was born, the D.A requested a hearing.

"LaRae [Moore, former assistant district attorney] stands up and says we are going back to trial. I must admit that... blew me away. I was in shock. I was like are they for real, did I hear that right? Even the judge seemed surprised," says Lane.

Although Lane wasn't forced to go back to jail, the thought that he could be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison was hanging over his head.

"I don't know why I am in this situation, but I am, we got another fight," said Lane.

The second trial lasted three weeks. Lane, found not guilty again, was acquitted.

Although he won his fight for freedom, he had to accept all that he lost during the battle.

"Be thankful I was acquitted and that I am free. So no reparations, and the only reparations I would want is what we lost. You move on, grin and bear it," said Lane.

But what Lane wants back even more than the time he lost with his wife or the thousands of dollars is his integrity.

"I never received an apology from the police, you're cleared, have a good day have a good life… I never really had that closure," says Lane.

As for the murder of Superintendent Burns, the Columbus Police department says no new arrests have been made leaving his murder unsolved after 20 years.

Copyright WTVM 2016. All rights reserved.