Manuel was just 13 when he shot Debbie Baigrie, a mother, in the face in downtown Tampa, Florida
Manuel agreed to a plea deal with the hope that he would only serve a few years behind bars. However, the judge sentenced him to life.
In 2010 the Supreme Court threw out life sentences for juveniles, and Debbie Baigrie began fighting for Manuel’s release.
“It’s the fact that he survived against all the odds and solitary confinement for over 20 years. He educated himself; he came through this and he came through it as a nice guy, not hardened,” Baigrie says.
“He wrote his ticket. That was it, as soon as he told the cops,” she said. “The judge wanted to make an example of him and it backfired.”
Manuel will now enter a program where he will be re-integrated into society. Over the years, his story has gained national attention, including from the Today Show and The New York Times. It was picked up by the Equal Justice Initiative and featured in Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy.
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