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Death Row Inmate Denied New DNA Testing

Marion County Circuit judge Channing Bennett denied a request for new DNA testing in the case of a man convicted of aggravated murder in 2004. The murder took place in March, 1998. The victim was stabbed repeatedly. The defendant, Jesse L. Johnson, requested new testing on numerous items, including some that had been tested before. The defense contends that advances in forensic science, and specifically in DNA testing, could lead to Johnson’s exoneration. For its part, the prosecution concedes that at least 11 items previously tested show no ties to the defendant.

Judge Bennett, for his part, wrote that no compelling theory of exoneration was provided. He said that the new testing was unlikely to lead to the defendant’s exoneration. He argued further that the request for new testing was a move to re-litigate the trial. He also noted that the opportunity to test more items was available at earlier stages, and was not utilized.

He also noted that the jury was aware of the fact that the DNA testing that was done did not directly implicate the accused. Central to the prosecution’s case was the fact that Johnson lied about knowing the victim, and about whether he had ever been in her apartment. The jury found this damning, as well as the fact that he was found attempting to sell valuables belonging to the victim.

Critics of this decision, including the Oregon Innocence Project, who have taken up the defendant’s case, argue that the statute that allows defendants to request DNA testing in felony and capital cases as written is a catch-22, forcing defendants to prove their innocence before they have access to DNA testing that could prove their innocence.

If you’ve been accused of a serious crime, you can count on Portland criminal defense attorney Ed Kroll to fight all the way to the end for you. No matter how bad it may seem, he’ll have your back. Call today for a free consultation.

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