State reviews evidence in 14,000 cases – no one gets exonerated


Thousands of cases dating from the 1981 through 1999 were reviewed to see if DNA could exonerate any convicted felons – but it seems likely none of the outcomes will be reversed.

"This study shows new technology did not result in any exonerations," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a news conference Wednesday announcing the results of the review, which was done after the state received a federal grant.

"[I] wasn't sure the results would be this good," Freeman added.

The review looked at 14,177 murder and rape cases statewide between 1981 and 1999, when DNA technology either didn't exist or before new methods were discovered, a news release says.

33 cases warranted DNA testing

Of those 14,177 cases, they determined 33 of them should be reviewed with DNA testing because it could possibly affect the person's guilt (while the others were closed because they didn't need further review, Freeman said).

Among those 33 cases:

Defendants in 12 of them declined testing, 11 tests were inconclusive, and eight confirmed the original conviction was correct.

Two cases are still pending – but Freeman said they "feel they are unlikely to result in exoneration."

Serial killer's case still pending

One of those two pending cases: serial killer Billy Glaze. He was convicted in 1989 of raping and murdering three American Indian women in Minneapolis in 1986 and 1987.

Glaze's lawyers had been fighting to prove his innocence using DNA evidence when he died of natural causes in December at the age of 72.

A Hennepin County judge is expected to rule on Glaze's case "soon," according to documents released Wednesday. But Freeman called the review of Glaze's case over, saying once someone dies a case dies.

He added that the review of his case has been "extensive" but now it's "time to move on."

Second case that's pending

The other case that's pending involves the rape of a girl in the Twin Cities suburbs, which Freeman didn't go into detail about.

The case involves "unusual" DNA, Freeman explained, including a DNA sample from the girl's shirt that has been sent off and loaded into the national DNA database, documents said.

Freeman says he'll share the results when testing is complete.

There have been exonerations in MN

Freeman admitted that no one is perfect and this review was an "incredible learning experience" that shows wrongful convictions in Minnesota "are very rare."

That's because county attorneys have a higher standard for integrity in Minnesota, and police procedures (including recording interrogations) have led to fewer false confessions, Freeman explained. He also cited the fact that Minnesota was a "pioneer in using DNA" in the late 1980s when defense attorneys were skeptical.

DNA testing is now considered one of the best tools to make sure the right person is convicted, the National Institute of Justice says.

That being said, there have been exonerations in Minnesota before – just not any from this most recent review.

Among them: the Sutherlin rape case in Ramsey County. According to the Innocence Project, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office did a review of pre-1995 convictions in the county to see if DNA testing would affect any of the outcomes – David Sutherlin was the only person to be exonerated.

Freeman also mentioned a Hennepin County case from earlier this year. DNA evidence cleared a rape suspect of charges after the victim had identified him in a photo lineup, instead of a man who looked similar, as her rapist.

According to the Innocence Project, 341 people have been exonerated thanks to post-conviction DNA testing in the United States.

To read the entire review released Wednesday by Hennepin County and other officials, including how it was conducted, click here.

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