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Judge tosses murder charge against man jailed 22 years

July 12, 2016

This story has been updated.

A man who served 22 years behind bars was freed last week when a judge at his second trial threw out the murder charge against him.

Duquene Pierre, now 45, was freed Friday after serving time for the murder of a man during a robbery in Elizabeth that occurred about 3:15 a.m. on March 20, 1994.

Pierre's defense attorney, Donald DiGioia, said Pierre was driving to Florida at the time of the robbery, and got a speeding ticket in South Carolina about 11:34 p.m. on March 19, less than four hours before the shooting and 749 miles away.

At Pierre's first trial, prosecutors said it could have been Pierre's brother who was driving the car that was ticketed for speeding. The defense attorney in that trial introduced the speeding ticket and cell phone records showing Pierre as he traveled south, but a jury still convicted Pierre of participating in the robbery and fatal shooting of a man outside a house on Magnolia Street in Elizabeth.

Last December, the state Supreme Court ordered a new trial, concluding Pierre was denied effective counsel because the original defense attorney failed to call family members to testify that they saw the defendant in Florida.

Linda Mehling, who represented Pierre in the Supreme Court appeal, and won the decision for a new trial, has credited Pierre with filing the court papers to get his case before the state's highest court.

DiGioia said that at the second trial last week, two people - who had originally testified as eyewitnesses at the first trial - admitted they were unsure of their identification of Pierre.

Witnesses had originally identified one of the shooters as Jean Dorval, who was a known associate of Pierre, the decision states. A witness at the first trial also testified that she saw Pierre and Dorval in her apartment hours after the shooting on March 20, when Pierre said he was in Florida.

Dorval and and another co-defendant, James Jean Louis, were also convicted in the murder and are still serving prison sentences.

DiGioia, who worked with an associate, Michael Simon and a second attorney, Frank Krack to represent Pierre, said Dorval was with Pierre as they traveled to Florida.

Pierre was originally sentenced to 60 years in prison.

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