Mount Holly, N.J. — A court on Friday used new DNA tests of hair to overturn the conviction of a man who has spent 18 years behind bars for a rape and murder he says he did not commit.
The ruling by Judge Thomas S. Smith did not exonerate Larry Leroy Peterson, however, and the original charges stand. The judge set bail at $200,000 and said the case would soon be in a jury's hands.
Defense attorney Vanessa Potkin, a staff lawyer for the Innocence Project at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, said about 30 hairs found at the crime scene were tested for DNA, and none placed Peterson there.
Neither do microscopic examinations of 130 additional hairs that were not DNA tested.
Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said he still believes Peterson, now 54, raped and killed 25-year-old Jacqueline Harrison in Pemberton Township in 1987.
Bernardi said the state still has five witnesses who say Harrison told them about the killing.
"The bottom line is, witnesses lie. DNA doesn't," Potkin said.