- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A former Charleston professional baseball player who was convicted in a 1987 sexual assault case but had his sentence vacated earlier this year will not have to stand trial again.

News outlets report prosecutors said at a Wednesday hearing that they were dropping charges against 50-year-old Jimmie Gardner because their case wasn’t strong enough to present to a jury. A retrial had been set to start on Monday.

“I thought it would just be a hearing,” Gardner, 50, said after the hearing. “I’m almost speechless. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a very, very, very long time coming.”

A judge in March overturned Gardner’s 1990 convictions of sexual assault and burglary. The judge said the trial had been tainted by false testimony from then-state police forensic serologist Fred Zain, whose discredited work resulted in millions of dollars paid to wrongfully convicted defendants.

Gardner had served more than 25 years of his 33- to 110-year prison sentence by the time he was released on bond in April.

Kanawha Assistant Prosecutor Don Morris said the decision to drop the charges was made after interviewing retired police officers and other witnesses.

“They couldn’t recall some important things,” Morris said. “It was a difficult decision, but we don’t think we can meet our burden.”

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