HELENA – A Helena District Court Judge has overturned the convictions of two defendants in a 1994 murder case.
The 20-page ruling was issued Friday.
In her ruling, Judge Kathy Seeley affirms in no uncertain terms arguments by lawyers for Fred Lawrence and Paul Jenkins that new evidence in the case meets Montana’s D-N-A Exoneration Statute.
Seeley says no DNA in the case links Jenkins or Lawrence to the scene where Donna Meagher’s body was found on Colorado Gulch Road.
The judge says DNA does match David Nelson, known for violent kidnappings, robberies and currently in prison for a double homicide in Deer Lodge.
Seeley says admissions Nelson made to his nephew Fred are more consistent with the physical evidence from the murder scene.
Based on the new evidence, the Judge says there is clearly reasonable probability that a different outcome at trial could have been reached.
Also, the Judge makes two other interesting statements in her ruling:
The new evidence, said Seeley, is generally inconsistent with the state’s theory of the cases as presented at trial.
The judge also says the DNA and statements from Fred Nelson, quote, “support the theory that David Nelson, a known killer, was involved in the robbery, kidnapping, and homicide of Donna Meagher.”
In overturning the convictions for robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and homicide, the Judge has ordered that both Lawrence and Jenkins receive new trials.
No date has been set.
The Judge also ordered that a status and bail hearing for Lawrence and Jenkins be scheduled as soon as possible.