- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A federal appeals court has overturned the murder conviction during a bench trial of an Illinois man, saying the judge’s ruling was “nonsense.”

Lawrence Owens has been in prison since his conviction in 2000 by the late Cook County Judge Joseph M. Macellaio in the death of a drug dealer.

In an opinion released late Monday, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner wrote there was no evidence Owens knew victim Ramon Nelson, used drugs or had any gang affiliation. Posner also wrote there was no physical evidence connecting Owens to the 1999 murder in the Chicago suburb of Markham.

The court gives the state 120 days to retry the 42-year-old Owens, who remains in Lawrence Correctional Center, or set him free.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney said the Illinois attorney general’s office is reviewing the decision.

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