Im­pris­oned 24 years, men granted new tri­als in fa­tal rob­bery

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - WEATHER -

PASSAIC » Two long-im­pris­oned men were granted new tri­als Fri­day in a deadly 1993 video store rob­bery, af­ter re­cent DNA tests on an im­por­tant piece of ev­i­dence matched a man never con­nected to the case be­fore.

Eric Kel­ley beamed and laid his head on his lawyer’s shoul­der as a judge over­turned his mur­der con­vic­tion in the death of store clerk Tito Merino. Co-de­fen­dant Ralph Lee would hear the news later: He was in a prison in­fir­mary, re­cov­er­ing from gas­troin­testi­nal surgery.

Both are be­ing held on $1 mil­lion bail as they await re­trial, and a prose­cu­tor in­di­cated she may ap­peal the con­vic­tion reversal.

But for now, “I’m so happy that I don’t even know how to ex­plain,” Lee’s fa­ther, Ralph Lee Sr., said as he left the court.

“I’ve been wait­ing for this day for a very long time,” added Kel­ley’s daugh­ter, Erica Mob­ley.

She was 9 when her fa­ther was ar­rested in a killing that so ap­palled gritty Pater­son that the then­mayor said the case made him sick to his stom­ach.

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