by Grace Toohey

For more than four decades in prison, Gerald Manning maintained his innocence — serving time for a brutal murder and rape for which he was convicted as a juvenile — until, only recently, DNA evidence bolstered his chance at long-awaited affirmation.

During all those years, the family of the woman murdered and raped in 1977 in Monroe fought on the same side as Manning, never believing he was the perpetrator of the crime.

So when Manning, now 59, walked free Tuesday evening through the gates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, there were two families who could finally feel some relief, some justice.

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