Man freed as murder case falls

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 12:16 a.m.

BUTLER, Ala. - A capital murder charge against a mentally retarded man was dropped Friday as he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in the 1999 death of a newborn who may never have existed.

Medell Banks Jr., 31, was freed after pleading guilty to tampering with evidence in the case, which took a bewildering turn when a gynecologist determined the purported infant's mother was sterile and could not have been pregnant. His trial was set to begin Monday. A conviction could have brought the death penalty.

Defense lawyers had argued that Banks was intimidated by prosecutors into confessing to taking part in the alleged killing. On Friday, they said he entered the plea to go free after serving 41 months in prison.

Banks, who was scheduled to be tried on the capital murder charge next week, hugged his lawyers as spectators leaving the rural southwest Alabama courthouse shouted, ``Praise the Lord!''

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