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Marble case on hold

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Cody Marble's nearly decade-long attempt to clear himself of a 2002 felony rape conviction—a crime he says he didn't commit—was dealt a setback on Jan. 26.

In March 2002, several teenage inmates accused Marble, who was 17 at the time, of raping a 13-year-old while both were incarcerated in the Missoula County Detention Facility's juvenile wing. Marble was convicted of the crime and sentenced to 20 years in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Since then, Marble has pleaded his case at the Fourth District, the Ninth Circuit and the Montana Supreme courts. In 2009, his persistence gained the attention of the Montana Innocence Project, which began to investigate. In July 2010, the Innocence Project obtained a written recantation from Marble's alleged victim, referred to in court documents as "R.T."

That gave Marble hope. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief. An evidentiary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 1.

However, when the Missoula County Prosecutor's Office interviewed R.T. under oath on Jan. 26, the young man said that Marble had indeed raped him. R.T. told Missoula County Prosecutor Fred Van Valkenburg that he only recanted to the Innocence Project because the Innocence Project "badgered" him.

R.T.'s Jan. 26 deposition prompted the court to put Marble's evidentiary hearing on hold. The Missoula County Prosecutor's Office is asking the court to dismiss Marble's petition and let the 2002 conviction stand.

Marble's attorney, Colin Stephens, says R.T. isn't credible; that was a fundamental flaw with the 2002 prosecution and it's the case now.

As for the Innocence Project, the nonprofit's director, Jessie McQuillan, says the assertion that her organization badgered R.T. is false. McQuillan says she can see why R.T. would again change his story: She points to deposition transcripts. Van Valkenburg told R.T. that if prosecutors find he lied during Marble's 2002 trial, he could be charged with perjury. "In the face of official prosecution threats, it's really not surprising," McQuillan says.

Van Valkenburg says that if R.T. perjured himself during the 2002 trial and caused an innocent man to be imprisoned, it's only fair that he be held accountable.

Marble's attorney will respond to the prosecutor's motion to dismiss by Feb. 15.

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