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Springfield man cleared in killing

SPRINGFIELD — A Springfield man who said he was wrongly convicted of a 2008 killing was acquitted Thursday at his second trial.

Supporters of Charles Wilhite cheered when the verdict was announced in Hampden Superior Court after four days of jury deliberations.

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Wilhite was granted a new trial last year after a key prosecution witness recanted his original identification of Wilhite as the shooter of Alberto Rodriguez outside a market.

The Republican newspaper of Springfield reported that Wilhite held his 5-year-old daughter and embraced other family members in an attorneys’ lounge after the verdict.

Wilhite declined to speak, but his aunt, Vira Douangmany Cage, one of the organizers behind the group Justice for Charles, thanked people who supported him.

‘‘Justice for Charles is justice for Springfield,’’ Cage said.

One of Wilhite’s lawyers, David A.F. Lewis, said his client had been jailed for 40 months since his arrest in 2008.

‘‘Justice rides a slow horse, but it always overtakes,’’ Lewis said.

Wilhite and codefendant Angel Hernandez, who owned the market, were convicted of first-degree murder in 2010. Wilhite insisted he was innocent.

Nathan Perez later testified he had been pressured into identifying Wilhite as the shooter by a Springfield police detective and an assistant district attorney, both of whom denied the accusation.

Prosecutors alleged Hernandez had a feud with Rodriguez and paid Wilhite to shoot him.

Hampden District Attorney Mark G. Mastroianni said his office reviewed the case brought by his predecessor, William Bennett, and found the evidence was strong enough to retry Wilhite, though the decision was not made lightly.

He said prosecutors had three witnesses who picked Wilhite out of a photo array.

‘‘I understand, respect, and will not criticize the jury’s decision — keeping in mind that another jury found there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ Mastroianni said.

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