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Wins New Trial, Release, 15 Years After Conviction

November 5, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ A man who spent 15 years in prison for a robbery-murder was released Tuesday, one day after a judge threw out the conviction because of new evidence in the case.

″The nightmare’s over,″ Bobby Joe Leaster, 36, said Monday upon learning of the ruling. ″I never lost faith. Never. My life is just starting.″

Prosecutors had not decided whether to re-try Leaster in the 1970 slaying of storekeeper Levi Whiteside, said David Rodman, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Leaster was arrested four miles from the scene in clothes that investigators said were similar to those worn by one of the assailants, and Whiteside’s widow identified Leaster at trial as the killer.

Leaster’s attorneys contended the identification was a mistake.

Mark Johnson, 28, a Boston teacher and constable who was 13 at the time of the crime, has since stepped forward to say that he saw two men running from Whiteside’s store after the slaying and that neither was Leaster.

Superior Court Judge John J. Irwin Jr. on Monday threw out the conviction, citing a ″substantial risk that the jury would have reached a different conclusion″ if the new evidence had been available.

Leaster was released on his own recognizance.

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