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Court Mistakenly Destroys Evidence That May Have Freed Death Row Inmate

December 8, 2017, on Criminal Investigations |

A federal criminal investigation attorney can provide you with help throughout the process of your case in ensuring you are able to obtain as much evidence as possible that could potentially be exculpatory.   Having an attorney who can help you to maintain and present evidence is vital, as the evidence that is presented in court can determine whether the prosecutor is able to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Just recently, a Los Angeles Times story highlighted some of the problems that can occur when vital evidence is not available to be presented in court. The Los Angeles Times highlighted a tragic case in which a death row inmate has argued that evidence which was inadvertently destroyed could have cleared his name.

Inmate on Death Row Argues Exculpatory Evidence Was Destroyed

According to the Los Angeles Times, the case in which the death row inmate claims evidence was destroyed centers around a double murder that the man was convicted of in 1984.  At the time of the man's conviction, modern DNA testing was not available. As a result, prosecutors were able to argue that blood on his work boots and a pink towel recovered from his home belonged to the victim's he allegedly murdered. He argues, however, that the dried blood on the boot and the towel actually belong to him and that modern DNA evidence would prove it if the boots and towel were tested.

However, when a search for the evidence was undertaken so the DNA could be evaluated, it was discovered that the Los Angeles County courts had mistakenly destroyed the evidence in the case.  California law mandates that evidence be kept until a death row inmate has been executed or until the inmate has died in prison, with this rule put in place in order to ensure that necessary evidence is available for appeals. 

There are now procedures in place to ensure that evidence is destroyed only after confirmation that the inmate has died. However, this is no help to the man who claims exculpatory evidence is no longer available that could potentially free him.  His case is the only known incident of evidence destruction of a living inmate in California, but there have been several other cases nationwide raising similar issues.

A decision now must be made in this particular case by a judge regarding how to proceed. An attorney for the defendant has requested a hearing on how the evidence destruction occurred and plans to request a new trial; however, prosecutors argue that the man is a convicted killer and that he should not be spared as a result of an innocent mistaken that was made by court staff. It remains to be seen what this convicted man's fate will be depending upon the outcome of the trial.  

Those who are accused of any type of crime, especially a serious offense, should make sure they have a federal criminal investigation attorney representing them who can help them to ensure they have all evidence available that could help them to fight conviction.

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