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Old 10-15-2004, 11:23 AM
FrozenInMinn FrozenInMinn is offline
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Arrow DNA should free inmate in 1984 killing

State: DNA should free inmate

AG's office says evidence may create reasonable doubt over 1984 killing

By Ashley Broughton
The Salt Lake Tribune

The conviction of a man who has spent 19 years behind bars for raping
and killing his ex-girlfriend should be overturned in light of new DNA
evidence excluding him, the Utah Attorney General's Office said
Thursday.
But, prosecutors cautioned, the new evidence does not definitively
prove Bruce Dallas Goodman is innocent.
"The new DNA evidence is not conclusive, but it is troubling," said
Assistant Attorney General Erin Riley. "It does not prove Goodman
innocent, but it may well create a reasonable doubt as to his guilt."
Goodman, now 53, was convicted in the 1984 beating death of Sherry
Ann Fales Williams, 21. But recent DNA testing concluded bodily fluids
from the victim and those collected at the crime scene did not match
Goodman's profile, according to the Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain
Innocence Center.
The group plans to file a petition in 5th District Court today
asking for Goodman's release. He currently is housed as a state inmate
in the Sevier County Jail. Efforts to contact him there were
unsuccessful Thursday.
The Attorney General's Office said it agrees Goodman's conviction
should be set aside with the possibility of a retrial, adding a judge
will ultimately decide whether to release him.
Spokesman Paul Murphy said efforts were ongoing Thursday to reach
Williams' relatives regarding the new development, but staff had been
unable to locate them.
Williams and Goodman had been living together in Las Vegas. He
testified at his trial they had argued and she left him five days
before she was killed, saying she planned to hitchhike home to Salt
Lake City.
State prosecutors said additional evidence, although circumstantial,
pointed to Goodman as Williams' killer. He had claimed he was in
California on the night of the murder after stealing his employer's
truck. But, prosecutors said, the truck was found in Las Vegas the
night before Williams died, and a service station attendant saw her and
a man fitting Goodman's description there.
A Mesquite, Nev., casino worker testified she saw Goodman and
Williams arguing loudly in the casino early on Nov. 30. Williams' body
was found later that day.
The rope used on Williams was the same type used at Goodman's
workplace, the attorney general's office said.
At a 2000 hearing before the state Board of Pardons and Parole,
Goodman said he accepted responsibility for the slaying but said he did
not remember it because he was using barbiturates and alcohol heavily
at the time, prosecutors said.
Utah's law concerning post-conviction DNA testing took effect in
April 2001. While several inmates have requested testing since then,
Goodman's case marks the first time results have not supported a
defendant's conviction, Murphy said.
Still, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in a statement Thursday,
the testing law "is an effective tool to answer concerns over a
defendant's guilt or innocence."
Goodman's potential exoneration initially was believed to be the
first of a Utah prison inmate based on DNA evidence. But in 1996, two
men were freed after serving 3 1/2 years in prison for aggravated
sexual assault in Juab County.
A 4th District Court jury convicted Jed Gressman and Troy Hancock in
a case where a woman claimed she was kidnapped and raped after the two
men offered her a ride while driving on the shore of Yuba Reservoir.
But after friends of the men dug up proof backing their claims of
innocence, and the state's own DNA expert concluded fluid on the victim
did not belong to either man, a judge granted their motion for a new
trial and then-Juab County Attorney David Leavitt dropped the case.
DNA testing at the time could only place the defendants within 21
percent of the population that could have committed the crime, Leavitt
said Thursday in an e-mail. A family member later paid for independent
DNA testing after technology had improved.
Leavitt said the experience was a sobering one for him. "It made
more of an impression on me than any other case in my career [including
the bigamy prosecution of polygamist Tom Green]."
Gressman said at the time, "I knew that someday the truth would come
out. I knew if I became bitter, it would hurt me."
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