Judge vacates murder conviction of LI man who spent over 30 years in prison

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RIVERHEAD -

A judge on Wednesday overturned the conviction of a Long Island man who spent over 30 years in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit.

Keith Bush was accused in the 1975 killing and attempted rape of 14-year-old Sherese Watson. Both attended the same party in North Bellport. Bush was convicted in 1976. Throughout the trial until now, the 62-year-old has maintained his innocence.

On Wednesday, Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini pointed out several problems in the case, most notably the existence of a second suspect, a man named John Jones, whose plastic comb was found at the crime scene. That information had been withheld from the jury at trial.

Jones, who had a long criminal history, claimed he had tripped over the dead body while walking home and was never investigated. He died in 2006.

"They covered it up," Sini says.

Sini also asserted that the murder, as it was described by authorities in the 1970s, was forensically impossible. Prosecutors said the victim was stabbed and then strangled, but Sini's investigators found that she was, in fact, strangled first and then stabbed.

In addition to that, a key witness has since recanted her testimony, and Bush says police beat him and coerced him into signing a false confession.

Bush's cleared name comes on the heels of a special Newsday/News 12 investigative report that revealed much of that new information about the case.

MORE: Newsday/News 12 investigation: Innocent man wrongfully convicted?

MORE: Innocent Man Part 2: After 33 years in prison new findings may clear man's name

Bush said on his way into court Wednesday morning that he never gave up hope, even after all these years, that he would one day be exonerated.

Bush was released on parole in 2007 and had to register as a sex offender. Wednesday's decision means his sex offender status will also be vacated.

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