A Virginia man who spent a decade in prison after pleading guilty to a New York City slaying over 50 years ago was cleared of the crime Monday, the AP reports. At the request of a prosecutor, a judge vacated the conviction of 81-year-old Paul Gatling for the 1963 shooting death of Lawrence Rothbort. In doing so, the judge apologized and Gatling hugged his crying ex-wife and a friend. The prosecutor asked that the conviction be vacated after Gatling, a retired landscaper, asked the prosecutor's Conviction Review Unit to look into his case. "Paul Gatling repeatedly proclaimed his innocence even as he faced the death penalty back in the 60s," Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson says. "He was pressured to plead guilty and, sadly, did not receive a fair trial."
Gatling, who walked with a cane as he entered the court, says he came from a civic-minded family and "this has stopped me from voting on every level." Rothbort was shot in his Brooklyn home. His wife told police that a man with a shotgun had entered the apartment and demanded money, shooting her husband when he refused. She later identified Gatling as the killer, although she couldn't spot him in a police lineup, and another man known to commit perjury said Gatling had been in the area. "I wanted to be done with all of this," Gatling tells the New York Times. "I was still angry about having to spend that time for something I didn't do." (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)