A Central California judge was left with no choice but to free a career criminal Wednesday after a jury accidentally filled out a not-guilty form. One hour later, the freed man was found fatally stabbed in a city street.

Judge W. Kent Hamlin said that he was forced to free defendant Bobby Lee Pearson, 37, because the jury’s verdict had been entered into the public record, the Fresno Bee reported.

“I can’t believe it,” he said, after issuing the order.

In this June 14, 2012 photo shows Fresno County Superior Court Judge W. Kent Hamlin in his courtroom. (AP Photo/Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss)

Jurors were hung on the case, but claim there wasn’t a deadlock form available, so they instead accidentally filled out a not-guilty form, according to the Bee.

“I can’t change it because double jeopardy has already attached,” Hamlin told them. “This has never happened to me in more than 100 jury trials that I have done.”

“This has never happened to me in more than 100 jury trials that I have done.”
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Police say Perason and two others burglarized an apartment in May 2013, stealing a video game console and a firearm. He had prior felony convictions of corporal injury to a co-inhabitant, possession of a firearm by a felon and carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle, the Bee reported.

In this undated photo released by the Fresno Police Dept. shows Bobby Lee Pearson. Pearson, a defendant in a Central California burglary case, walked out of a courtroom a free man after a jury mistakenly signed a not-guilty verdict form, even though it was hung and could not reach a verdict. (AP Photo/Fresno Police Dept.)

Just one hour after Pearson was released, the man was found to be the victim of a fatal stabbing, police said. The boyfriend of Pearson’s sister has been arrested in connection with the murder.

“The question that comes about in an incident like this is, ‘If Bobby Pearson would not have been released, would this murder have occurred?’” Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday afternoon. “And the obvious answer is, ‘No, he would have been in jail.’”

The police chief added that this was the first time in his 35 years as an officer that he’d ever seen something like this occur during a trial.

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