SAN FRANCISCO -- Remarkably, Ronald Ross is not angry.
Locked in prison for almost seven years for a crime he never committed, Ross, now free, said he harbors no ill will toward the criminal justice system that wrongfully convicted him of attempted murder.
Ross is not angry at the jury that found him guilty. He's not angry at the police detective whose sloppy investigation made Ross the primary suspect. He's not angry at the witnesses who lied during a trial identifying Ross as the shooter.
"The first year and a half, I was mad until I realized that God do things for a reason," Ross said. "It was just something that happened."
Ross was found guilty of attempted murder in November 2006 after a confluence of errors made him the primary suspect in the shooting of a man who once lived next door to Ross's mother.
Oakland police failed to follow-up on other leads and witnesses lied during Ross's trial convincing a jury that the 51-year-old was guilty.
Ross's attorney, however, was not convinced and immediately contacted the Northern California Innocence Project at the Santa Clara University School of Law after Ross was sent to prison.
The project receives up to 1,000 requests a year for assistance, but its legal director, Linda Starr, said Monday the Ross case stood out.
After speaking to the Oakland resident, project leaders knew Ross was innocent but also knew that the battle to free him would be long and intense.
The project then contacted San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest which donated more than 2,000 hours to win Ross's release.
"He is a soft-spoken, gentle soul who is not capable of hurting anyone," Starr said. "He displayed a kind of trusting patience that only an innocent man who knows that someday the truth is going to be revealed has."
After spending his first weekend as a free man since he was arrested in 2006, the Louisiana native spoke of his time in prison and how, while hard, the ordeal saved his life.
Ross said he was a frequent drug user before he was sent to prison and on a path toward death.
"I was out there getting high and stuff and during my early 30s, I would tell people that God would make sure I make it until 50," Ross said. "I got arrested when I was 41 and now I am 51 so that is something to be blessed about.
"It's part of the reason why I was there, because of the statement I made that God will make sure I make it to 50," Ross said.
While in prison, Ross said, he was able to reflect on his life and participate in programs to better himself.
"One day God say I would see the light and I have seen the light," Ross said. "It was something I went through. It wasn't a fun experience, but things happen that way."
Ross said he is a changed person and knows now how to stay out of trouble.
"I'm a whole lot better now because I had time to think about things," he said. "I'm trying to keep my nose clean. A lot of people I had seen before I went to prison are still doing the same activity. I can't go back to that. No way. No more."
Despite what he learned in prison, Ross said it was an experience he would never want to go through again.
"Nooo, nooo, nooo," Ross said when asked if he would return to prison to visit friends he made there or volunteer for programs. "Not even visit."
Ross said he has no immediate plans for his life other than to move back to Louisiana and reconnect with his children and grandchildren.
He also said he would like to work at or create a program to help troubled youth. Ross said he believes he has valuable lessons to teach young people about his experience in prison.
In the meantime, Ross said, he's making sure to take deep breaths every time he steps outside.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get all the fresh air," Ross said. "I'm glad it is over. I can now get on with my life."