A judge in east Arkansas has dismissed capital murder charges against a Phillips County man who's been behind bars for more than 2˝ years.
Tony Bernard Smith, 25, was released from the Cross County jail Tuesday after Judge L.T. Simes granted prosecutors' third request to release Smith and drop all charges.
"The way things were going, I thought I was never going to come out. I thought I was going to be locked up for the rest of my life," Smith said shortly after his release. "I'm out, and I'm with my mom in the car, and I'm just still kind of shocked that I'm released."
Prosecutors had charged Smith with capital murder for the 2011 death of Michael Campbell, who was killed during a robbery in Helena-West Helena. But prosecutor Fletcher Long moved to drop charges in May because a key witness had changed her testimony and other evidence didn't line up with the prosecutors' case, he said.
Simes twice rejected the prosecutors' request for dismissal and had appointed a special prosecutor to the case, saying he didn't trust the motivation of the original prosecutors because he believed they were being investigated by the FBI in an ongoing corruption case.
Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that Simes didn't have the authority to replace the prosecutors, but the court declined to order the dismissal of charges against Smith.
On Monday, Long made the request to drop the capital murder case against Smith and the judge approved the motion Tuesday.
One of Smith's defense attorneys, Amy Jackson Kell, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1876ajO ) she was in disbelief as she drove to give Smith the news Tuesday.
"I'm in shock. I can't believe that we have an order in the back seat of my car that's going to release my innocent client," she said.
Long said "there's no joy" in dropping the case against Smith.
"I can never tell you 100 percent that someone is or is not guilty. I can tell you that I was not morally convinced of his guilt, and under those circumstances my conscience won't let me stand in front of a jury and tell them that they should be morally convinced that he's guilty," he said.