Seattle – For the first time in Washington State history, a criminal
conviction has been reversed based on DNA testing not available at the time of
conviction. The September 13 ruling by Judge H. Robert Hackett of the Yakima Superior Court was made after the Court
of Appeals sent the case to the Superior court for an evidentiary hearing.
“In the ultimate pursuit of justice, the prosecutor was agreeable to DNA testing,”
said Jackie McMurtrie, professor of law at the
University of Washington School of Law
and attorney for Ted Bradford. “He’s thrilled with the result and he’s innocent,” added McMurtrie.
Bradford was convicted in 1996 for rape of a Yakima woman and confessed to
the crime after eight hours of high pressure interrogation. He was convicted and
sentenced to more than 10 years in prison despite the fact that Bradford did not match
the description of the rapist; testimony from co-workers verified that he was at work at
the time of the crime; and there were glaring discrepancies between his post-interrogation
admissions and the victim’s description of the attack.
Since his conviction, new technology has made it possible to extract DNA
from very small samples. Crime scene evidence from Bradford's case, including a
mask which the perpetrator forced the victim to wear, was submitted to the
Washington State Patrol's crime lab for DNA testing in 2005. The lab concluded that
male DNA on black electrical tape used to cover the eyeholes of the mask was not
Bradford was also represented by Felix Luna, a graduate of the UW School of Law
and an attorney with Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, on a pro bono basis. Law
students in the Innocence Project Northwest Clinic, directed by Professor McMurtrie,
have also been working on the Bradford case. The clinic provides free legal expertise
for indigent individuals who are serving long prison claims and who claim their
innocence. For 10 years, the clinic has pursued the cause of justice and provided access
to justice for those in need.
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