SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California appeals court cited new DNA testing while overturning the murder conviction of a man who has spent 33 years in prison.
California’s Sixth District Court of Appeal struck down the conviction of Jack Sagin after lawyers showed his DNA was absent from a victim’s nails and other crime scene evidence, the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) said Wednesday.
It’s now up to the state attorney general to decide whether to appeal the ruling, said Berkley Brannon, chief assistant district attorney for Monterey County.
After that, his office could consider whether to free Sagin or seek a new trial.
Sagin was convicted in 1986 of the murder of Monterey resident Paula Durocher, largely based on testimony from two jailhouse informants.
In 2009, a Monterey County Superior Court judge allowed post-conviction DNA testing of evidence collected from the crime scene.
And in August, under a new legal standard for considering such evidence, the appellate court vacated Sagin’s conviction, saying the DNA evidence would likely have changed the outcome of the trial.
“Today, justice has finally been done,” said Melissa O’Connell, lead counsel and staff attorney with the project. “NCIP has been working on this case since we opened our doors and it has been a long, hard battle. Jack has exhibited tremendous strength and grace in his 33 year fight for his freedom. We commend the court for looking at all of the evidence, applying the legal standard, and coming back with a just result.”
Brannon said the court isn’t finding Sagin is innocent but “is saying at least one juror may have voted a different way and the evidence is important.”
The state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The overturned conviction comes a week after another Northern California man was exonerated in the stabbing death a man suspected of sexually molesting a child, based on newly discovered evidence by the NCIP. The organization said Bob Fenenbock spent 28 years in prison after a conviction based on the testimony of a nine-year-old boy who had been coached by a therapist and detectives.
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