When Derrick Wilson, 38, was set to go on trial for a murder committed nearly two decades ago, he decided his best advocate would be himself. Instead of being represented by a state-appointed lawyer, he represented himself in court and actually won the case, Syracuse.com reported on Dec. 5. This happened while Wilson was already serving a 28-year drug sentence. On Thursday, Syracuse.com ran a lengthy feature detailing how, exactly, Wilson managed to beat the system and, from a legal standpoint, prove his innocence.

Wilson was charged with the April 2000 murder of Waliek Hamer in Syracuse, New York, 15 years after the fact, in 2015. Hamer was shot to death at a burger restaurant in Syracuse, but uncooperative witnesses led to the case going cold for more than a decade until Wilson was charged.

In the United States legal system, defendants on trial are guaranteed the right to a lawyer, which can be provided by the state should the defendant not be able to afford one themselves. Wilson felt these state-appointed lawyers are “ill-equipped and overburdened,” having gone through nine in the last two cases he fought. So, he turned his jail cell into an office packed to the brim with legal documents that he studied in preparation for his big trial.

Wilson, his opponents and Hamer’s surviving family all agree Wilson’s victory had less to do with his legal skills and more to do with the incredible weakness of the case against him, per Syracuse.com. The prosecution never presented firm evidence against Wilson, failing to even identify a murder weapon with any level of certainty, much less attach it to Wilson.

Even Hamer’s brother, Ronnie Johnson, admitted the prosecution did not stand a chance with the evidence available. Per Syracuse.com, Johnson would not have been able to find Wilson guilty if he were on the jury, and he still personally believes Wilson killed his brother. Aside from the lack of evidence, Johnson felt the most important eyewitness who was called to the stand was clearly not credible.

Johnson also believed Syracuse Police hastily brought a flawed trial to Wilson out of some kind of a vendetta against him, as he successfully sued the police department in 1998 over a body cavity search.

"This is where I start to come back around to, were you trying to set the man up because he sued the police department? It looks like you're framing him," Johnson told Syracuse.com. "I started to see maybe this dude is onto something. He made valid points about everything. He was very smart. He did his homework."

Wilson may have won his innocence when it comes to the murder of Hamer, but he still faces nearly three decades in jail for drug charges, pending appeal.