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Wrongly convicted Georgia man released after 12 years in prison

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia man has been released from prison after serving 12 years for a murder that prosecutors now concede he did not commit.

Charges against David Peralta, 36, were dropped on Thursday.

Peralta was convicted in 2001 of the drive-by shooting that killed his girlfriend, Rebecca Moore, said Tully Blalock, one of his attorneys.

Police arrested Peralta after two men riding in the car with Moore at the time of the gang-related incident identified him as the shooter, Blalock said.

But the men later denied seeing Peralta at the scene, saying they had identified him in a police lineup only because they had seen him in a bar earlier that night, Blalock said.

Also, two of Peralta's fellow prison inmates who told investigators he had confessed to the murder later recanted or refused to repeat the statement, Blalock said.

Eric Burton, a spokesman for the DeKalb County District Attorney's office, said the charges were dismissed because "through subsequent investigation, it was concluded that Peralta was not guilty of the crime and that the victim was fired upon by a rival gang."

In 2006, federal investigators with a gang task force turned over information to Georgia prosecutors indicating that Peralta may not be the killer.

"As far as we know, nothing was done," with the information from federal investigators, said Blalock. "The speed at which this case has progressed really has been frustrating."

It was only after Peralta won a new trial on appeal and prosecutors reopened the investigation that the charges against his client were finally dropped, said Blalock.

His lawyers have told Peralta he now has the option of filing a civil damage suit against authorities.

But, said Blalock: "Right now, he's just trying to get his life back."

(This story has been refiled to restore dropped word "the" in paragraph four)

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Gunna Dickson)

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