- Associated Press - Monday, January 30, 2017

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Latest on the perjury trial of two men whose recanted testimony led to freedom for a man who was imprisoned for two decades in a New Orleans murder case (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

The New Orleans district attorney says it’s “highly disappointing” that a judge acquitted two men charged with perjury after they changed their stories in a 1993 murder case.

Recantations by Kevin Johnson and Hakim Shabazz led to freedom for Jerome Morgan, who was convicted the year after 16-year-old Clarence Landry was killed when gunfire broke out at a Sweet 16 party.

State District Judge Ben Willard announced the not-guilty verdict Monday, saying the state failed to meet its burden of proof.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro questioned that conclusion, saying the two clearly lied, either in 1994 or when they changed their statement in 2013.

Defense attorney Jason Williams, a New Orleans City Councilman who has been critical of Cannizzaro, called the prosecution of Johnson and Shabazz “vindictive and retaliatory.”

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10 a.m.

Two men have been acquitted on perjury charges filed after they changed their story about a 1993 New Orleans murder - resulting in freedom for the convicted suspect who spent two decades behind bars.

State District Judge Ben Willard announced his not guilty verdict Monday morning in the case of Kevin Johnson and Hakim Shabazz. He had heard testimony and arguments on Friday.

Johnson and Shabazz were teenagers when the shooting happened and they implicated Jerome Morgan, who was 17 when he was arrested.

Their recantations helped the organization known as The Innocence Project New Orleans win freedom for Morgan, who was convicted in 1994 and spent 20 years behind bars. The victim in the case, 16-year-old Clarence Landry, died when a gunman opened fire at a party in 1993.

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8 a.m.

Two men charged with perjury after they recanted their stories in a 1993 murder case - resulting in the release of the convicted suspect - are close to learning whether they’ll be convicted.

State District Judge Ben Willard in New Orleans was expected to announce his verdict Monday in the case of Kevin Johnson and Hakim Shabazz. Prosecutors say they should be punished for lying - whether it was when they were teenagers two decades ago, or as adults in 2014.

Their recantations helped the organization known as The Innocence Project New Orleans win freedom for Jerome Morgan, who was convicted in 1994 and spent 20 years behind bars. The victim in the case, 16-year-old Clarence Landry, died when a gunman opened fire at a party in 1993. Morgan was 17 when he was arrested.

Defense attorneys say the men were courageous to risk prosecution by recanting their stories. Prosecutors say their false statements had consequences - whether they sent an innocent man to prison or enabled a killer to go free.

Shabazz, Johnson and Morgan all were at a Sweet 16 party where a gunman opened fire in 1993. Shabazz and another person were wounded. Landry was killed.

Morgan was convicted at trial the next year. He was freed in 2014 and charges were officially dropped in 2016.

Willard heard testimony and arguments Friday in the perjury case, the result of a 2015 indictment.

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