Judge releases man held for three years after new prosecutor acknowledges case is weak

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A man accused of murder and arson who has spent three years in jail awaiting trial has been released on his own recognizance after a prosecutor acknowledged problems with the case.

Judge James Daniel ordered the release of Randal Wagoner on Wednesday after a new prosecutor said the case was weak, the Florida Times-Union reports.

The charges have not been dropped, however. Wagoner still stands accused of killing Kathy Lorraine Johnson and setting the fire that burned down her building. The new assistant state attorney handling the case, London Kite, plans further investigation to determine whether the case is viable.

Kite told the judge that tests indicate DNA under the victim’s fingernails did not belong to Wagoner. She also said the medical examiner had changed his opinion that Johnson died by blunt force trauma after a review by a prominent expert hired by the defense.

The medical examiner still believes Johnson’s death is a homicide, but “he could go either way,” Kite said.

Kite replaced assistant state attorney Peter Overstreet in November. He was one of 11 employees let go after voters elected Melissa Nelson and ousted Angela Corey as state attorney. Overstreet was one of the prosecutors in another case in which the defendant was held in jail for 589 days before the case was dropped. According to a January 2016 story by the Florida Times-Union, the defendant was accused of three armed robberies, and had alibis for two of them.

Hat tip to the Marshall Project.




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