Circuit Judge Frederick Lowe found that Turner's former "swim buddy," Billy Joe Brown, was credible in a recent confession to the Oceanfront, Va., death of Georgia college student Jennifer Evans. The findings are expected to be a key factor when the Virginia Court of Appeals rules on Turner's petition for release, The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday.
Turner and Brown were both convicted and sentenced to long prison terms in 1996 after prosecutors said they couldn't prove which man killed Evans. Brown changed his story in 2002, saying because he had become a Christian he couldn't let an innocent man continue to pay for the crime.
Turner has claimed innocence since the killing, admitting he helped Brown dispose of the body and cover up the crime. That could be make him guilty of being an accessory after the fact -- a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in jail.