FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A Fort Worth judge has signed an order that exonerates a man who spent 19 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of murder.

The ruling Wednesday by state District Judge Louis Sturns means John Earl Nolley, 44, now is declared innocent in the 1996 slaying of Sharon McLane from Bedford. McLane was found dead less than two weeks before Christmas. She was stabbed almost 60 times. Police didn’t arrest Nolley, who was good friends with McLane, until more than eight months after the murder. He was convicted of murder the following year.

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The ruling makes Nolley eligible for state compensation.

Sharon McLane, a mother of four, was found slain in her apartment in December of 1996. She is pictured here with her two youngest children. (credit: Star-Telegram archives)

Sturns apologized to Nolley for the state’s actions.

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Innocence Project lawyer Barry Scheck and others attorneys had worked on Mr. Nolley’s case for 10 years and presented a two-part grievance to Judge Sturns. They said Mr. Nolly had never received a fair trial since his conviction was based on false testimony and evidence that had just recently been tested for DNA and proven not to be his.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Nolley’s conviction in May, leading to Wednesday’s ruling by Sturns.

John Earl Nolley (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

Nolley was freed in 2016 after a witness admitted he lied and a bloody palm print at the crime scene was linked to another person.

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The witness who lied was a jailhouse informant and the case contributed to changes in state law that placed more controls on testimony provided by informants