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Murder and sexual assault charges dismissed from 1998 case

It's been almost 20 years since a man was charged with sexually assaulting and murdering a toddler, but he has finally been cleared. The charges against him were recently dropped by the Durham district attorney.

The toddler was two years old at the time of her death, and her mother was the man's girlfriend. The investigators said that shaken baby syndrome is what caused her to pass away, and the man was later jailed.

In 2010, though, he was released from prison and the initial case was dismissed. In doing that, the judge said that the State Bureau of Investigation and the prosecutors had violated the man's constitutional rights. Blood tests had been done, and crucial details were discovered, but they had then failed to share those details as they should have.

However, in 2012, three judges said that there was not enough evidence to throw out his case, saying the judge did not have the facts to do that. As a result, the man has been waiting to find out if he'd go to trial again or if he'd really be free to go. He's been stuck in this middle-ground for years.

Now, he finally knows that the charges are gone and he won't return to jail. The reasoning is that some of the most influential witnesses from the 1998 trial can't be found, so the 2010 decision will stand.

This case really does a good job of showing just how long things can drag out, with very different decisions coming years apart. It's critical to know your rights and all of the legal options you have at a time like this.

Source: The News & Observer, "Durham DA dismisses murder, sexual assault charges from toddler’s death in 1998," Anne Blythe, Nov. 29, 2016

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