DNA Used to Reverse Felony Conviction

Professor Jackie McMurtrie

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's.

Bradford was also represented by Felix Luna '97, 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.