A 71-year-old Maryland man who has spent two decades in prison will get a new trial because a lab determined that genetic evidence from the victim is not his, the Baltimore Sun reports. It is the first Baltimore murder conviction to be turned around by new DNA testing. Robert Griffin was found guilty in 1986 of stabbing and strangling Annie Cruse, 20 and leaving her body in a park. Circuit Judge Gale E. Raisin said the result from a recent DNA test is “so compelling” that Griffin deserves a new trial.
Prosecutors said that the right man is in jail and that they will pursue a new trial. They called the DNA evidence – sperm collected from the victim’s body – irrelevant, saying they never claimed that the person who last had sex with Cruse was her killer. Griffin has proclaimed his innocence for 20 years. Michele Nethercott, head of the Baltimore-based innocence project – which focuses on righting wrongful convictions – said Griffin is an example of the importance of testing old DNA evidence. She said destroyed evidence and uncooperative prosecutors, particularly in Baltimore, have hindered the innocence project. In Baltimore County, DNA testing led to the 1993 exoneration of Kirk Bloodsworth, making him the first death-row inmate in the U.S. to be freed by DNA. Bloodsworth spent nearly a decade in prison for the 1984 killing of a 9-year-old girl.