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OBITUARY: JOHN DUVAL

By Jeff DeToro | January 27, 2006 | Page 2

JOHN DUVAL, a Rochester man who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit before being freed and exonerated, died last week. The cause of his death wasn't known, but ever since his years in prison, John suffered from kidney and liver ailments, and had to undergo regular dialysis treatments.

John was convicted of the 1973 murder of a Philadelphia businessman. The only evidence against John and codefendant Betty Tyson were confessions that they said were beaten out of them by a police detective, and the testimony of two teenage runaways, one of whom later recanted.

After all this finally emerged, a judge ruled that prosecutors had wrongfully suppressed evidence in the original trial, freeing Tyson in May 1998 and John a year later.

The city decided not to retry Tyson, but they went after John again--in part because John, believing it was his only hope of freedom, twice told a parole board that he felt "remorse" for the murder. The retrial resulted in a not-guilty verdict in January 2000.

Activists in Rochester, including ISO members, worked for years to win John's freedom, and he became politically active himself following his release.

Recently, John worked with a few of us in town on the Save Tookie campaign, speaking eloquently at rallies and to the media about how he would have been executed himself if the death penalty had been legal in New York when he was convicted. A week ago, John was with us at the first meeting of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty in Rochester.

People who knew John are talking about holding a vigil and speakout downtown to honor him for his struggle against the criminal injustice system.

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