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A man who served nearly 20 years in prison for murder was released Thursday by a judge in Cambridge, Mass., citing new DNA evidence that has cast doubt on the conviction. Judge Vieri Volterra released Kenneth Waters on personal recognizance pending a possible retrial. Waters praised the efforts of his sister Betty Ann, a former high school dropout who put herself through law school to work for his release and found the evidence that led to his release. “I think it’s absolutely amazing that she’s dedicated her life to this,” Waters said. “It’s been 19 years. My whole family suffered unbelievably.” Waters had a tearful reunion with his mother and nine brothers and sisters in a Middlesex, Mass., Superior Court hallway. “It’s a great day. It’s a great day,” said Waters’ mother, Elizabeth O’Connor. “It’s great to be free,” Waters said after emerging from the court probation office and embracing his family. Prosecutors said they were reviewing the entire case, which had included allegations by two of Waters’ ex-girlfriends that he had admitted to the murder and an allegation that he sold some of the victim’s jewelry five or six weeks later. In a statement, prosecutors said their decision not to oppose Waters’ motion for a new trial “does not constitute a finding … regarding Mr. Waters’ culpability or lack thereof.” Waters was convicted of beating and stabbing to death Katharina Brow of Ayer in 1980. His attorney at the time argued Waters was in court on the morning of the slaying to face a charge of assaulting a police officer, but authorities were unable to verify the alibi. Waters was convicted of first-degree murder and armed robbery and sentenced to life in prison in May 1983. Betty Ann Waters worked on the case for years, and eventually learned that a box of evidence with her brother’s name on it was sitting in a courthouse basement. The box contained the knife used in the slaying and pieces of cloth with blood samples on them. She enlisted the help of the Innocence Project, a New York-based group that helps inmates challenge convictions based on new DNA evidence. The material was tested, and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that the DNA collected from the evidence she found did not match her brother’s. Prosecutors said Thursday they will decide whether to pursue a new trial based on “a full and thorough” review of all the evidence presented in the original case. If the case is retried, “We’ll just have to go battle them again,” said Waters’ brother David O’Connor, 44, of Providence, R.I. “You can just only imagine what he went through, but he dealt with it, he never gave up hope,” O’Connor said. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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