ARIZONA NEWS

Exonerated Arizonan fights to change criminal justice: ‘I was wrongfully convicted’

Apr 17, 2023, 4:05 AM | Updated: 7:14 am

PHOENIX — Khalil Rushdan was sent to prison for life when he was 22.

“I was wrongfully convicted of a crime of first-degree murder,” he said, “which I did not commit.”

Rushdan is now a free man thanks to the Arizona Justice Project, which works to exonerate people who have been wrongfully convicted.

He has become an advocate for criminal justice reform and serves as social justice programs manager for Arizona Faith Network, where he helps others who have been wrongfully accused through several social and criminal programs.

“After my release, I decided to not just sit around and wait for change, I decided to be on the front line of change. So I went from the injustice-impacted to justice-impacting,” Rushdan said.

Rushdan grew up in a rough home situation. He ran away at age 13 and started selling drugs. In November 1993, Rushdan, then 19, introduced a drug buyer to a seller and then left. The buyer robbed and killed the seller and took the drugs, according to Rushdan and the Arizona Justice Project.

Rushdan cooperated with the police investigation but did not testify during the trial and was later prosecuted for the murder. He said the reason the prosecutor “charged me with the murder was because he felt I let the real killer go.”

When Rushdan went to trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years. He served over 15 years in prison and was exonerated and released in 2012.

A year prior to his release, he was contacted by the Arizona Justice Project, which helped him bring his case back to court. A federal district court granted relief to Rushdan on the claim of vindictive prosecution.

Rushdan was a scheduled speaker at the Innocence Network conference, which was Friday and Saturday in Phoenix.

The Innocence Network, which is affiliated with the national Innocence Project organization, consists of 71 organizations worldwide – including the Arizona Justice Project – that are working to free innocent people, prevent wrongful convictions and reform the criminal justice system.

More than a decade after he left prison, Rushdan is not only speaking at conferences but is also serving on the Maricopa County Commission on Trial Court Appointments, which reviews applications for county trial judges and makes recommendations to the governor. He was appointed to a public member seat on the commission by Gov. Katie Hobbs, who said he would bring a valuable perspective “as someone who experienced challenges with the judicial process,” according to The Arizona Republic.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Picture of the Mitsubishi Montero that Phoenix police suspect hit an 11-year-old girl in a crosswal...

Damon Allred

Hit-and-run suspect sought in Phoenix after injuring child walking in crosswalk

Officers are searching for a hit-and-run suspect who hit an 11-year-old girl walking in a school crosswalk on Friday, Phoenix PD said.

26 minutes ago

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department)...

KTAR.com

Police investigating deadly shootings in south Phoenix on Saturday morning

Police on Saturday morning were searching for a suspect or suspects after two people were fatally shot in south Phoenix in the early-morning hours.

2 hours ago

Rattlesnake activity...

Nick Borgia

Warmer temperatures leads to increased rattlesnake activity in the Valley

The Banner Poison and Drug Information Center has seen an increase in rattlesnake activity in the Valley due to warmer weather.

4 hours ago

Housing program...

Nick Borgia

Gov. Katie Hobbs announces new $13M housing program

Gov. Katie Hobbs and the Arizona Department of Housing (ADOH) announced a new housing program on Friday, called "Arizona is Home."

5 hours ago

expand
The Lee Lee International Supermarkets store in Chandler. (Maison Solutions Inc.)...

Brandon Brown/Phoenix Business Journal

Arizona Asian grocery chain acquired by California company

Arizona's Lee Lee International Supermarkets has been acquired by a Southern California-based specialty grocery retailer.

6 hours ago

Deshan Begay, 24, was struck by a vehicle while walking when he didn't have the right of way, polic...

KTAR.com

Man fatally struck while crossing I-10 access road at red light in Phoenix

Deshan Begay, 24, was crossing the I-10 westbound access road on Wednesday evening when a vehicle fatally struck him, Phoenix police said.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Exonerated Arizonan fights to change criminal justice: ‘I was wrongfully convicted’