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Retrial in '03 slaying ends with acquittal

Defendant jailed since Oct. 2003

Suddenly, Arthur Rashaad Miles has a future.

A Suffolk Superior Court jury took just five hours to acquit him of first-degree murder charges yesterday, and the 20-year-old Dorchester man became free for the first time since October 2003.

"He's extremely happy," defense lawyer Steven J. Sack said of Miles. "He's spent four long years waiting for this."

Miles was 16 when he was charged with killing another 16-year-old, Livey Bennett of Avon, on Feb. 21, 2003, after a dance for teenagers at First Parish Church in Roxbury ended with fights breaking out.

Sack said Miles, who always maintained his innocence, was spending his first night of freedom with relatives. He and Miles drew up a plan for the young man to follow, now that he is no longer facing the possibility of dying in prison, Sack said.

"His plan, and we talked about this, is to get a job, get his GED, and to work hard," Sack said.

Although he is glad to be free, Miles "felt bad about Livey Bennett's family," Sack said.

Miles had been tried once before for first-degree murder, which carries a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, in Bennett's death. The first trial ended in October with the jury deadlocked.

"We are disappointed, but we respect the verdict," Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said in a statement. "The prosecutor did an outstanding job presenting an extremely difficult case with a variety of issues obscuring the evidence. This is why we have juries."

The prosecution of Miles was significant to the district attorney because his office and Boston police had persuaded a close friend of Miles to testify as a prosecution witness.

Joshua Jones had gotten into a fistfight with Bennett that night, and prosecutors had alleged that Miles fired multiple shots to defend Jones, hitting Bennett in the chest and groin.

Sack, who has represented Miles since his arrest in October 2003, said he believes the jury simply could not accept that Jones and other prosecution witnesses were telling the truth. No forensic evidence linked Miles to the murder, he said.

"I think juries are smart," he said. "The evidence just wasn't there."