BOISE- A Boise State University science lab helped free two men from prison. They had been locked up in Montana for 23 years serving life after being wrongly convicted of murder.
Since 2014, BSU professor Greg Hampikian has been working on DNA evidence in the case through a Department of Justice grant. The Montana Innocence Project reached out to him hoping that by looking at the evidence collected at the Helena murder scene would exonerate the two men who had been convicted of the crime: Fred Lawrence and Paul Jenkins.
Hampikian says it’s rare to have a result like the one they had which was no DNA from the 1994 crime scene could be matched to Lawrence or Jenkins, but there was a match to another man already serving time in Montana for violent crimes. His name is David Nelson and he is in prison for robbery, kidnapping and homicide.
“To both exonerate two men which I believe we’ve done and then to point to the person who was at the crime scene who at least handled the rope (at the crime scene),” said Hampikian. “We work on a lot of cases like here in Idaho for ten years without being able to completely resolve them and be able finish this one in a matter of four years, we’re very, very satisfied.”
Lawrence and Jenkins were released from prison earlier this week. The Helena district court judge has requested a new trial for them. She said based on the DNA evidence it’s clear a different outcome could be reached in the murder of Donna Meagher.
Hampikian says the Montana Innocence Project did all of the legal work on this case and his lab at BSU was happy to do the DNA testing.
The two men who had their convictions overturned say they are grateful to everyone who worked so hard for them. Now, they just want to move forward. The Montana Innocence Project will assist them.
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