More than two decades after being convicted of rape and murder, a Cincinnati man is seeking post-conviction DNA testing in an attempt to clear his name.
William Virgil's attorneys at the Kentucky Innocence Project will ask a trail judge on Friday for DNA testing on newly discovered evidence that was recovered from the attic of the Campbell Circuit Court after most of the evidence against him was lost or ruined from a flood.
Kentucky Innocence Project Director Linda A. Smith said it is urgent that the judge rule quickly since a U.S. Department of Justice grant that will pay for testing expires in September, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Virgil, now 59, was convicted of the rape and murder of an ordained minister in 1987 and sentenced to 70 years in prison. He has always maintained his innocence and denied any involvement in the crime. In court filings, the Commonwealth's Attorney Michelle Snodgrass previously argued that in absence of any new evidence, Kentucky law limits DNA testing only to prisoners on death row.
But Smith feels that the legislature never intended to limit DNA testing to prisoners on death row.
"Both may be incarcerated wrongfully, regardless of the sentence received," Smith wrote in a court filing. "Without a mechanism to seek relief, a defendant is caught in an untenable situation where he cannot access evidence for DNA testing because he was not sentenced to death, but would be exonerated or entitled to a new trial if he obtained favorable DNA testing results in his case."
Smith is requesting DNA testing of the rape kit, the victim’s semen-stained nightgown, an ashtray, cigarette butt and matchbook found by the victim's shower, among other items.
Pieces of evidence that were used at trial, such as Virgil’s blood stained sneakers and a sweatshirt, along with the cigarette butt, are now missing.
Smith said her attempts at DNA testing is not an effort to re-litigate the trial. Based upon the technology available and forensic evidence presented at the time, the jury's verdict was explicable, she said.
"However, the reasons to use new technology to resolve any doubt about guilt or innocence since the advent of DNA testing do not just involve Mr. Virgil alone; the reasons also include the possibility of finding the true perpetrator," Smith wrote.
Virgil has been denied parole twice, but will appear before the parole board for a third time in September. Read the full article
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