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Man Wins New Trial 15 Years After Murder Conviction

November 4, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ Evidence that emerged 15 years after a man was convicted of murdering a storekeeper has won the prisoner a re-trial and a chance to ″get that free feeling again.″

″The nightmare’s over,″ Bobby Joe Leaster said Monday. ″I never lost faith. Never. My life is just starting.″

Leaster’s lawyers said they expect him to be freed on bail.

The 36-year-old Alabama native was convicted of killing Levi Whiteside, a Dorchester variety store owner, during a robbery.

Superior Court Judge John J. Irwin Jr. ruled that there was ″a substantial risk that the jury would have reached a different conclusion″ if the new evidence had been available at the original trial.

The evidence came from Mark Johnson, 28, a teacher who contacted Leaster’s lawyers after reading about the case in a magazine article. Johnson, who was 13 at the time of the slaying, said he saw two men running from Whiteside’s store, and he was ″absolutely sure″ neither one was Leaster.

Leaster was arrested in September 1970 about 90 minutes after the murder about 4 miles from Whiteside’s store. He was dressed in clothes that matched the description of one of the assailant’s.

The victim’s widow identified him as the killer. Defense lawyers argued that the identification, moments after she had seen her husband’s body, was flawed.

Dave Rodman, a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, said no decision has been made on whether Leaster will be prosecuted again.

Leaster’s lawyers have lined up a construction job for him, but first he plans to get used to freedom.

″Coming out of jail after 15 years, I’ve got to collect my thoughts and get that free feeling again,″ he said. ″I’ve got to get back in with the world. Get back on with my life.″

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