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CAIN BURDEAU
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A 38-year-old man wrongly convicted of raping and killing his 14-year-old step-cousin in 1997 has been released from Louisiana's death row.

Authorities say experts determined Damon A. Thibodeaux's confession was false and DNA tests found him to be innocent.

A corrections spokeswoman says he was released Friday after spending 15 years on death row.

Thibodeaux was sentenced to death in the rape and murder of Crystal Champagne. Prosecutors say the investigation into her slaying continues.

In a statement, Thibodeaux said he was grateful to the district attorney and is "looking forward to life as a free man again."

Thibodeaux confessed to the murder after a nine-hour interrogation. The Innocence Project says that was virtually the sole basis for his conviction.

The Innocence Project says since 2000, six people have been exonerated from Louisiana's death row.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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