Associated Press Writer
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) -- After 25 years in prison, John Duval finally feels exonerated.
The former transvestite prostitute was acquitted of murder Wednesday after being put on trial for the second time for the bludgeoning and strangling of a Philadelphia businessman in 1973.
Duval dropped his head and sobbed when the jury delivered its verdict after a week of testimony and two days of deliberations. Relatives in the gallery erupted in cheers and shouts of "hallelujah!''
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Duval, 47, had been freed last spring on the basis of new evidence. If he had been convicted again of second-degree murder, he would have been returned to prison and remained there until he died or was granted parole.
Timothy Haworth, 52, a consultant from Philadelphia to Eastman Kodak Co., left his hotel the night of May 24, 1973, apparently in search of a prostitute. He was found dead in an alley the next morning.
Duval and fellow prostitute Betty Tyson were convicted on the basis of confessions they insist were beaten out of them by a rogue detective, and on the testimony of two teen-age runaways. They were sentenced in February 1974 to 25 years to life in prison.
One of the teen witnesses, Wayne Wright, recanted his testimony in 1997, saying he had lied about seeing Duval and Tyson with the victim.
Prosecutors then came upon a buried synopsis of a police interview with the other teen, Jon Jackson, in which he denied seeing Duval or Tyson with the victim -- contrary to what the teens had testified in 1973.
Ruling that evidence was wrongfully suppressed, a judge freed Tyson in May 1998 and Duval last April. While prosecutors decided not to retry Tyson -- the city gave her $1.2 million in compensation -- they went after Duval again. While Tyson had steadfastly maintained her innocence, Duval had twice admitted his guilt before a parole board.
His lawyer, Gilda Sherrod-Ali, said in closing arguments that Duval lied to the parole board in 1995 and in 1997 because "he believed that was the only way he could get out.''