Associated Press

Convict Freed After 13 Years in Prison
September 23, 2004 Filed at 5:53 a.m. ET

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- A man who spent 13 years in jail for a murder he said he didn't commit was freed after a judge learned investigators suppressed evidence that indicated he wasn't guilty.

Kevin Coleman, 32, left Palm Beach County Jail Wednesday after he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in the shooting death of Bobby Roddy. Coleman was convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison, but new evidence led to a plea deal.

Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown reluctantly accepted Coleman's new plea, saying she had reservations about letting him plead to a crime that he denied committing.

Brown, who ordered a new trial in August, has called the murder investigation ``shameful'' and said Coleman's conviction was ``a stain on the record of this court.''

After Coleman was freed, he clutched his wife, Annette. Family members circled around, tears streaming. He said he could only look ahead and find the good in his ordeal.

``It taught me to be a man,'' Coleman said. ``I wouldn't be the man I am today.''

No physical evidence linked him to Roddy's death outside a bar in 1991 and eight eyewitnesses said he wasn't there, but a jury believed two others who said Coleman was the killer. One was Roddy's cousin, who wasn't wearing his prescription glasses as he ran from the bar.

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