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DNA evidence clears Colorado man in 1994 sexual assault, murder case

Back in 1994, Roy Romer was governor of Colorado and John Elway was quarterback of the Denver Broncos.

A Colorado man, 33 years old at the time, was free back then, too; free to ride the motorcycle that he loved.

But his cherished freedom was abruptly ended when he found himself arrested for sexual assault and the murder of a 19-year-old Palisade woman; crimes he insisted he didn't commit. Eighteen years later, a DNA test has cleared the man in the case and he has been freed from prison.

Now 51 years old, he wore glasses to his court hearing this morning where a judge dismissed charges against him and said he's free to go.

The innocent man who served 16 years behind bars "flashed a small smile," according to a media report.

He was convicted in 1996 of the crimes committed two years earlier. His sentence: life without parole.

"It threw me into a dark tunnel," he said of his conviction.

For those first two years behind bars, he couldn't even bring himself to make his bed. But slowly he decided to adopt a positive attitude.

Last year, the Colorado Attorney General's Office's Justice Review Project decided to look at his case. The project reviews cases in which it's possible that new DNA testing might exonerate a person.

Back in 1996, the evidence the court considered apparently included conflicting DNA data.

A retesting of the evidence has led to the release of the man wrongly accused. It has also led prosecutors to accuse another man, already in prison on a homicide conviction, of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault.

The man just released from prison says his first task as a free man is to take his motorcycle for a ride, though he doesn't know yet where he's headed.

"As long as it's in the wind, I'm happy," he said.

Source: Washington Post, "Man convicted in Colorado slaying freed, with DNA evidence pointing to different suspect," May 1, 2012

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