Prosecutors in Cleveland have dropped the murder charges against an Ohio man who was imprisoned for more than 18 years but maintained his innocence and was granted a new trial. The Plain Dealer reports 40-year-old Anthony Lemons said a burden was lifted from him as a judge acquitted him yesterday. Lemons was imprisoned for a 1994 shooting that authorities said was a dispute over drug money. He steadfastly denied involvement and was released on parole in December 2012. In granting a new trial last year, the judge had noted police reports were withheld from the defense that contained important information that could raise doubts about a key witness. One indicated the witness identified Lemons citing shoes that weren't manufactured at the time.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Blaise Thomas says the office doesn't concede Lemons is innocent. But Thomas says prosecutors couldn't go forward with the new trial because the eyewitness died, and the judge wouldn't allow transcript of her testimony to be used in the new case. Lemons' next legal step could be pursuing a court declaration that he was wrongfully convicted, a necessary step in seeking compensation from the state, which he says he is seeking. He says he would use any such payment to start a program to help released inmates transition back to life outside prison. (Shoes also play a role in another story of a man who went free decades after being convicted of murder.)