Mass. Man Celebrates Release

.c The Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Marlon Passley had maintained all along that he was wrongly convicted of a fatal shooting four years ago. His prosecutors now say he may have been telling the truth. 

After serving three years of his life sentence, Passley was released from prison Friday by authorities who said new evidence indicates it is unlikely that he committed the crime for which he was convicted. 

But questions still remain both about the 1995 killing and Passley's future. 

``He's sort of in limbo to the extent we're waiting for the other shoe to drop,'' said Mark Horrigan, the attorney who represented Passley at trial. ``This is a good kid and this shouldn't have happened.'' 

Passley, 26, celebrated his release with his mother and girlfriend, while prosecutors and detectives remained tightlipped on the potentially exculpatory evidence they say has emerged. 

``We're happy he's home, but we really don't want to talk to the press,'' said a woman who answered the door at Passley's family's apartment Sunday. 

Victims who survived the shooting still insist Passley was the gunman who pumped bullets into three men, killing one. 

A jury convicted Passley of killing Tennyson Drakes, 18, and wounding two other men in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood on Aug. 11, 1995. Prosecutors had said Passley, riding on a motorcycle, shot at a group of men as they stood in a driveway. He then returned, again allegedly opening fire on the victims as they lay on the ground. 

Several witnesses later identified Passley from photographs shown to them by police. At his trial, four witnesses fingered Passley as the shooter. 

But seven of Passley's friends and relatives testified that he was with them at his cousin's graduation ceremony from an Upward Bound program in Wellesley when the shootings happened. 

In 1996, Passley was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, along with concurrent sentences of 15 to 20 years for wounding the other men. In February, the state's highest court concluded Passley's trial had been fair and upheld the conviction. 

Roger Thompson, 33, who still has four of the eight bullets that struck him lodged in his chest and waist, said police notified him of Passley's release Friday afternoon. 

``I know who shot me. It was Marlon,'' Thompson said. 

But a source close to the case said there's very little chance Passley -- who is free under a judge's temporary lifting of the sentence -- will ever go to jail again for the shooting. 

Prosecutors said evidence which has emerged in the last two weeks points to a ``substantial likelihood of a miscarriage of justice'' but wouldn't say what the evidence was. 

Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney's office, would neither confirm nor deny reports that prosecutors were focusing on another suspect. 

Passley has maintained his innocence all along, even as he faced spending the rest of his life in prison. ``I don't think he ever gave up hope,'' said Horrigan. 

Horrigan added that Passley has a huge capacity for forgiveness, recalling that when he was released from the state's custody, he hugged the very prosecutor who had put him in jail. 

``He was very dignified,'' recalled the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Leslie O'Brien. ``I was impressed by his stoicism and his dignity in the face of this.'' 

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