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An ex-Navy SEAL trainee had his murder and abduction convictions overturned Tuesday after spending 13 years in prison for killing a Georgia college student who was vacationing in Virginia.

A divided Virginia Court of Appeals panel granted Dustin Turner's request for a writ of actual innocence, vacating his conviction of murder and abduction with intent to defile in the 1995 death of 21-year-old Emory University student Jennifer Evans.

Turner is the first person in Virginia to get a murder conviction overturned under a 2004 law that allows nonbiological evidence of innocence to be considered more than 21 days after sentencing.

Turner, 34, of Bloomington, Ind., is serving an 82-year sentence for killing Evans in his parked car outside a Virginia Beach nightclub in 1995. Another trainee, Billy Joe Brown, changed his story to say that he alone killed Evans.

"While Turner's conduct creates a suspicion of guilt, the evidence, viewed in the context of Brown's recantation, cannot support findings of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the ruling stated.

The Attorney General's Office has two weeks to ask for the full court to make a decision or a month to appeal the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. If the attorney general does not protest the ruling, Turner would be released from Powhatan Correctional Center.

Turner's attorney and mother said they were cautiously optimistic about Tuesday's ruling.

"We're very pleased, and we like our chances moving forward, but at this point we're not exactly sure what forward will be," Turner's attorney David Hargett said.

David Clementson, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said only that officials there are reviewing the opinion.


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