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Withheld DNA overturns manslaughter conviction

MALHEUR COUNTY, Oregon – Malheur County Senior Circuit Court Judge Patricia Sullivan has overturned the 2010 manslaughter conviction of Nicholas McGuffin. He was tried and convicted in 2011 by a split jury of killing his 15-year-old girlfriend in 2000.

His attorney, Janis Puracal of the Forensic Justice Project, says the conviction was overturned because the Oregon State Police Crime Lab failed to disclose DNA evidence that pointed to an unknown person committing the crime. That DNA evidence was found on both of the victim’s shoes. No physical evidence to suggest McGuffin was at the scene was presented at the trial.

The state has 30 days to decide whether to retry McGuffin. Puracal says her client has always professed his innocence and was convicted simply because he happened to be Leah Freeman’s boyfriend at the time. If the state decides not to appeal, the Coos County District Attorney’s Office can either decide to retry the case or dismiss the charge against McGuffin.

Sullivan, who is retired but as a Plan B judge, still works at least 35 days a year, heard the case because McGuffin is held at the Snake River Correctional Institution near Ontario.

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