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Exonerated by DNA, man free after 10 years

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man convicted of killing a community activist 10 years ago was freed Tuesday after DNA tests tied the slaying to another man.

"All I can say is God is good," said Douglas Warney, 44, bent over in a wheelchair with advanced AIDS.

Warney, who has an eighth-grade education and an IQ of 68, had confessed details about the 1996 New Year's Day stabbing of a local Million Man March organizer, William Beason, that police insisted only the killer could know.

But Warney's defenders argued that he had parroted details two detectives gave him in an interrogation room at a time when he was stricken with AIDS-related dementia.

Attempts to perform DNA tests that prosecutors first blocked in court in 2004 recently produced evidence pointing to a prison inmate, Eldred Johnson Jr., as the culprit. Authorities say Johnson has confessed to killing Beason two weeks after slashing the throat of his landlord in Utica — a killing he pleaded guilty to in 1998.

With the agreement of prosecutors, a judge vacated Warney's second-degree murder conviction and sentence of 25 years to life and ordered him released.

"I'm angry that I was put in a position that could have cost me my life," Warney said, weeping as he lamented "10 years of my life that I'll never get back."

A lawyer for the Innocence Project, a New York legal clinic that tries to free wrongly convicted inmates, took up Warney's case in 2004.