Innocent Man Released From Prison after 11 yrs.
November 14, 2001                                        By LARRY O'DELL, Associated Press

    RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A man was freed Wednesday after serving 11 years in prison for a murder authorities now say he didn't commit. Jeffrey Cox, 33, and his parents, sitting two rows behind him in a Richmond courtroom, shed tears of joy as Circuit Judge Walter W. Stout dismissed the charges against him. ``It's been a long struggle,'' Cox told reporters afterward. ``It's a beautiful day, and I can't wait to walk out of here.''  Cox was sentenced to life plus 50 years in prison for the 1990 stabbing death of 63-year-old Ilouise Cooper. He insisted he was innocent, but was convicted, largely on the testimony of two of Cooper's neighbors, who said Cox and another man dragged her from her apartment.  In May, Stephen Hood was charged with Cooper's death. Court papers say a witness told investigators that Hood and another man, who has not been charged, killed Cooper.  Prosecutors, who could have sought to retry Cox, instead asked Stout to throw out the original indictments, which he did at Wednesday's hearing.  Outside of court, Cox celebrated with about 30 friends and relatives wearing yellow ribbons.  ``This is the happiest moment of my life,'' said his mother, Pat Cox. ``I never gave up hope.''

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