CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Bus driver Victor Garcia, whose conviction in the slayings of eight women had been widely questioned, was freed from prison Thursday after Judge Rodolfo Acosta overturned the guilty verdict and 50-year sentence.
Acosta did not rule on Garcia's allegation that he had been tortured into making a stilted, videotaped confession but said the testimony of a key witness was unreliable.
Authorities say 360 women have been killed over the last 12 years in the border city of 1.3 million and about 100 of those cases apparently involve young women who were sexually assaulted, strangled and dumped in the desert.
Garcia's conviction in October was the second in the cases. Many women's rights activists, victims' relatives and federal officials repeatedly expressed doubts about it.
His co-defendant, bus driver Gustavo Gonzalez Meza, died in 2003 in police custody, and Gonzalez Meza's lawyer was shot to death in 2002 in what police called a case of mistaken identity.
Federal prosecutors who were brought in to investigate the cases said they found that state authorities, who usually prosecute homicides, mishandled on a massive scale investigations of the crimes.
President Vicente Fox's special commissioner for the prevention of violence against women in Juarez suggested days after Garcia was convicted that he should be freed, citing suspicions of torture.
Suspicion had focused on bus drivers in the city because many of the victims were last seen boarding or waiting for buses.
Before the verdict against Garcia, the only other man convicted was Egyptian chemist Abdel Latif Sharif. Prosecutors claimed that Sharif paid others to continue the killings while he was in jail.
In January, 10 other men were convicted in 12 of the slayings and received sentences ranging from 24 to 113 years in prison. Some of the men, members of two criminal gangs, claimed that they were tortured.