But there’s no guarantee 37-year-old Lane will remain free for long. A Muscogee County Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after jurors deliberated the murder case for three days. Now prosecutors have to decide whether to put the former U.S. Marine from Pell City, Ala., on trial a second time.
“I hate for any of us to have to go through this again,” Carol Lane, the defendant’s wife, told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “I definitely hate it for my husband to go through this again, but I can truly say I admire his strength, because he’s known all along he had the truth on his side, and he would do whatever he needed to do to completely clear his name.”
Lane became a suspect almost immediately in the Oct. 19, 1992, slaying of local school superintendent Jim Burns, who was stabbed to death in the bedroom of his home. Police pulled over Lane, then a 17-year-old high school student, driving a pickup truck that matched a witness’ description one spotted near Burns’ home. And empty knife sheath was found inside Lane’s truck.
However, Lane was let go for nearly two decades until his arrest on murder charges in 2010, after authorities said they had DNA evidence that linked him to the murder weapon.
That forensic evidence fell apart in the courtroom last week and was largely blamed for causing prosecutors’ case to unravel. Experts testifying for the prosecution told jurors DNA tests on the knife used to ill Burns didn’t implicate Lane, but only showed he couldn’t be excluded as a suspect.