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Judge overturns conviction, helps free inmate

5:32 PM, Nov 29, 2011   |    comments
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DECATUR, Ga. -- After more than 800 days behind bars for a crime he maintains he did not commit, Nathan Christopher Dwight is enjoying his first taste of freedom in more than two years.

The 23-year-old was released from the DeKalb County jail on bond earlier this week -- his story a case study in the promise and perils of the criminal justice system.

Dwight was originally convicted and sentenced to life in prison last year for a violent armed robbery in Rockdale County. Prosecutors allege the then-21-year-old carjacked a woman in DeKalb County and used her stolen Chevy Corisca as the getaway car in the Rockdale robbery.

PHOTO GALLERY: A timeline of Nathan Dwight's case
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RELATED: Original 2009 grand jury indictment
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In a remarkable reversal, Dwight had his conviction and life sentence for the 2009 armed robbery overturned by the same judge responsible for putting him behind bars a year earlier.

Referring to himself as the "13th juror," Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation granted Nathan Dwight a new trial.

In his ruling, Judge Nation wrote the evidence used to convict the 23-year-old was "minimal and conflicting." He also questioned the credibility of a key prosecution witness.

Dwight has long maintained his innocence. And a family friend provided him with a seemingly airtight alibi, telling police and jurors that Nathan was asleep at her home at the time the crimes were being committed.

The carjacking victim Ashley Leggett told jurors that the image of her attacker was etched in her mind. She described him as a young, black man of medium height with short, cropped hair. But she testified that his most distinctive feature was a dark birthmark or scar beneath his eye.

Because the gunman in the convenience store robbery wore a disguise, Leggett's testimony became a crucial part of the prosecution of both cases.

The Rockdale County District Attorney's office said they would not seek another trial.

Dwight has yet to be indicted for the carjacking which occurred in DeKalb County. The District Attorney has not indicated if he plans to prosecute or drop the case.

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