JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A judge in Missouri has overturned the conviction of a man who is going free after spending 16 years behind bars for a killing he maintained he didn't commit.
Cole County Judge Richard Callahan ruled Tuesday Joshua Charles Kezer, 34, should be released, finding there was no credible evidence he was responsible for the 1992 shooting death of 19-year-old college student Angela Mischelle Lawless, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday.
"There is little about this case which recommends our criminal justice system," Callahan wrote. "The system failed in the investigative and charging stage, it failed at trial, it failed at the post trial review and it failed during the appellate process."
Kezer was expected to be released Wednesday afternoon after prosecutors said they would not seek a new trial.
"This is proof that God is real," Kezer told the Post-Dispatch from prison. "This is wonderful."
Kenny Hulshof, the special prosecutor who tried Kezer and later became a congressman, said in a statement Tuesday night he remains convinced of Kezer's guilt.
Scott County prosecutor Paul Boyd said in a statement Wednesday he would not refile charges, but stopped short of proclaiming Kezer innocent in the death of Lawless, whose body was found in her car off an interstate near Benton.
"The investigators have a lot of work to do resolving this case. If some new evidence comes to light pointing at a suspect, I expect to be apprised of the facts and determine if a prosecution should be commenced at that time," he said.
Callahan said Kezer's case meets the legal standard of innocence. No physical evidence tied Kezer to the crime, no one said they saw him shoot Lawless, friends and family testified he was 350 miles away the night of the murder, and the only witness who placed him near the crime scene has recanted.