- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) A retired steelworker, who died in prison after maintaining for years that he was wrongfully convicted of murdering his nephew, was cleared when another man pleaded guilty to the killing.
Prosecutors admitted after the plea was entered Monday that they had wrongly convicted Henry Myron Roberts. The Baltimore man was sentenced to 50 years in prison at age 63 though he had no criminal record and was critically wounded when his nephew, Henry Harrison, 21, was killed in 1991.
In May 1997, Mr. Roberts died in prison at age 68.
Robert Tomczewski, 29, admitted shooting Mr. Harrison while robbing Mr. Roberts' home after witnesses came forward two years ago. One said he had been with Tomczewski at the time of the killing, and another said Tomczewski, in jail on other charges, had confessed to the crime.
"As soon as the witnesses came forward and we realized the wrong man had been incarcerated, our prosecutors went to prison to get him out," said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the State's Attorney's Office. "That was when they were told he had passed away."
Even though Mr. Roberts was critically wounded, police became suspicious because of inconsistencies in his story, including his description of the attacker, and his seeming lack of cooperation.
The unnamed witness who was with Tomczewski when Mr. Harrison and Mr. Roberts were shot, had been 17 at the time, Miss Burns said, adding that he has been plagued by guilt ever since.
"It was something that had been eating away at this man for years," Miss Burns said. "He finally decided to come forward and tell what he knew to detectives."
The key piece of evidence used against Mr. Roberts was the .22-caliber handgun used in the crime. The murder weapon was found two months later by two boys who said they were hunting frogs near a creek. The gun had once belonged to Mr. Roberts, who told police it had been stolen from his home.
Investigators suspected Mr. Roberts dumped the gun in the creek and shot himself to fool police.
"The biggest problem was that it was his gun," said Michael Lee Kaplan, who represented Mr. Roberts at the trial.
Mr. Kaplan said that at one point, a prosecutor and he worked out a plea agreement that would have given Mr. Roberts a suspended sentence for manslaughter. The plea bargain was rejected by the judge, Mr. Kaplan said.
Once in prison, Mr. Roberts protested to lawyers, judges, prison officials and reporters that the system had the wrong man. He even wrote to an environmental writer that the boys who claimed to have found the murder weapon couldn't have been hunting frogs because the creek had been polluted for years and did not have any frogs.

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