Free at last - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Free at last

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON DC (NBC) - A man who spent almost 28 years behind bars for the rape and murder of a Georgetown University student has been freed.

A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Donald Gates released after DNA evidence proved the 58-year-old man innocent. Gates was released from an Arizona prison Tuesday. He was handed warm clothes and $75 in cash before being driven to a bus station for the ride to his Ohio hometown.

"I'm going home. I'm happy I'm out, happy to be a part of the community and that's all I've got to say, Gates told reporters who gathered at the prison after his release. "I might talk a little bit more after I have a chance to think."

Gates opted to take the bus instead of flying so he could have a look at the country he hasn't seen in almost 30 years. The Gates case is the first time DNA evidence has been used to clear a convicted murderer in a Washington, D.C., courtroom.

Gates was convicted in the June 1981 rape and murder of Catherine Shilling. The 21-year-old university student worked at a law firm in the Watergate office building. She was walking home to Georgetown when she was dragged into the woods in Rock Creek Park, raped and shot in the head.

Gates was convicted on the testimony of an FBI hair analyst who testified that two hairs found on the victim belonged to Gates. The agent was later discredited. Gates maintained his innocence all along.

Retired former Chief Judge Fred Ugast, who presided over the Gates trial, said he is concerned and disturbed about the case. Ugast wants the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation to determine if any other innocent people where convicted based upon the agent's false testimony.

"There are two victims in this case. There's Katherine Shilling, 21 years old, brutally raped and murdered, said Joan Draper, Assistant U.S. Attorney. "And, unfortunately, there's Mr. Gates. He's a victim also."

Copyright 2009 NBC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Powered by WorldNow